Directors from across the region jumped aboard a director’s motion to write a letter objecting to Greyhound Canada’s request to eliminate stops in the Similkameen Valley including Princeton, Hedley and Keremeos.
The motion was brought forward by Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer at Thursday’s Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen meeting.
The motion requested staff to draft a letter objecting changes and supporting continued service throughout the Similkameen and rejecting changes to Vancouver to Osoyoos route. The motion was unanimously supported.
“Keremeos, Princeton, I think Osoyoos — have already written letters,” Bauer said. “We’ve encouraged our residents to write letters to the transportation board on this.”
Greyhound’s proposal to eliminate the Similkameen from its service is part of a bigger change that includes dropping the number of days the Vancouver to Osoyoos route runs and re-routing the bus to go through Kelowna at Hope.
The proposal also includes the elimination of several Northern B.C. routes including the route along the Highway of Tears, and reducing the frequency of trips for several routes including Alberta Border to Vancouver, Kelowna to Penticton, Kamloops to Kelowna and others.
Mayor of Princeton Frank Armitage called for the provincial government to get involved in ensuring public transit for all communities.
He said the town previously wrote to Greyhound when route changes resulted in drop offs and pickups happening at 4 a.m. The change left residents and visitors at risk as there are no businesses open in the town at that time.
“We heard nothing back,” he said shaking his head. “It’s time the provincial government got involved.”
Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit echoed Armitage’s concerns stating the bus headed west from Penticton currently leaves at midnight.
“(These are not) realistic times for people using the bus or trying to use the bus for getting to the Lower Mainland for medical or family reasons,” he said.
Okanagan Regional Transit does connect bus routes from as far away as Princeton and Osoyoos to Kelowna but depending on where and what time the passenger is starting it could take multiple days to get their destination.
Tom Siddon, director for Area D, said small communities need access to regular bus service.
“To have to get up to Kelowna to catch the bus because you don’t have a car is ridiculous,” he said.
Greyhound Canada claims the changes are unavoidable with ridership rates dropping 51 per cent.
“This decision is a regrettably unavoidable response to a challenging transportation environment that is characterized by diminishing ridership, escalating costs and increased competition from publicly subsidized services. Despite significant efforts over the past several years to reduce costs as well as other measures to adapt to the market, the status quo is no longer sustainable,” a Greyhound spokesperson wrote in an email.
Anyone may submit written comments about the application to the Passenger Transportation Board by quoting Application 256-17.
Comments must be received by Oct. 13 and can be sent to:
Passenger Transportation Board PO Box 9850 STN Prov Govt Victoria, British Columbia, V8W 9T5 Fax: 250-953-3788 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org