While a reduction in Greyhound Bus service through District 69 may cause some inconvenience, it points to a bigger issue with transportation and community links according to local officials.
“I have a general concern about our linkages,” said Parksville mayor Chris Burger, pointing out city council sent a letter in opposition to the reduction in service last November, citing its importance to students and seniors.
Last week the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board approved Greyhound Canada’s application to reduce service to 15 routes including cutting its minimum service between Nanaimo and Campbell River in half to once a day, and eliminating a Victoria to Mount Washington route.
The Canadian subsidiary of the Scottish-owned company said it is losing more than $14 million a year on its B.C. passenger service due to higher fuel and maintenance costs and reduced ridership and it needs to save $6.75 million a year to survive.
Kim Burden, executive director of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce, also framed the cuts in the wider context.
“We depend on these inter-community links,” he said adding he hopes the Regional District of Nanaimo’s regional transportation planning will help fill he gap.
“I don’t think there will be a dramatic direct impact on local businesses,” he said, but it is part of an overall troubling trend.
He pointed to ongoing issues around rail service, the public transit system, BC Ferries and the Qualicum Beach Airport and said it is important to keep smooth transportation to Nanaimo and Comox where people can access ferries and airports. That is crucial to this area’s continuing tourism and economic development.
“For companies that want to relocate here it’s important to have good connections to Vancouver,” agreed Burger.
He highlighted efforts like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Cut My Commute campaign and other larger provincial, or at least Island-wide efforts around transportation planning.
“We need a wider conversation on this, we need a plan to give us a sense of purpose and security on the Island,” he said.
The Canadian Auto Workers Local 114 gathered nearly 800 signatures and asked the Minister of Transportation Mary Polak to reverse the decision, which she said she would not do.
CAW 114 and others have pointed to the need for more public transportation, especially for First Nations communities and lower income people.
Local CAW 114 representative Jim Sadlemyer said in an e-mail that “the prosperity, productivity and participation of all segments of society depends on a viable, accessible transportation network. These ‘externalities’ explain why the nature of transportation . . . is a matter of public and policy interest and cannot be left solely up to the private cost-benefit decisions of private market participants.”
While Tofino Bus Services has applied to expand in the region, Greyhound has also announced they will launch a Greyhound Express in B.C. this spring offering more leg room and Wi-Fi.