Is it fair to subsidize one bus system over another is a question regional politicians are going to have to consider in the New Year.
At Thursday’s Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen meeting directors discussed a recent request from Greyhound Canada to provide written support for the private company to be subsidized by the province so rural routes did not have to be impacted.
Greyhound has applied to the province’s Passenger Transportation Board to stop passenger service to Princeton, Hedley and Keremeos by re-routing the Osoyoos to Vancouver route through Kelowna.
Several other routes throughout the province are also on the chopping block including busing in northern rural communities along the Highway of Tears and many others.
The company has cited financial reasons stating the routes are not financially viable as there is minimal ridership.
Directors met with Greyhound officials in late November during a legislative workshop and heard first-hand some of the challenges facing the large bus company.
“They said they’re losing $35,000 a day. They know we’ve all written to them asking for them to keep the bus lines, but we also know that B.C. Transit is subsidized but they (Greyhound) aren’t and if we want to continue to have rural service they say that’s what they need,” Karla Kozakevich, chair of the RDOS, said during discussion about the letter of support.
Kozakevich said the bus company is facing increased private competition on popular routes specifically noting the Vancouver to Whistler routes and that also has an impact on the bottom line of the company.
B.C. Transit has an agreement with and receives partial funding from the RDOS to operate a regional bus system including a route that travels through the Similkameen stopping in Princeton, Hedley, and Keremeos travelling to Penticton. Many routes travel from communities in the South Okanagan to Penticton and there is also a route that travels to Kelowna.
Tom Siddon, director for Area D, noted the B.C. Transit system receives funding from the province and the regional district,
“We’re subsidizing one half of the equation and Greyhound says they’re losing customers to B.C. Transit. What game are we in here?” he asked.
Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer said many rural services receive top up funding from the province including the school system. He supports looking further into Greyhound receiving some financial help so rural people have equal access to a busing service.
“Other than the handy dart in the Similkameen transportation is really sad,” he said, adding. “I actually think it’s a good move on Greyhound. They’re saying if you want to keep rural transportation we need some help.”
Staff will prepare a report looking more in-depth into the matter of regional transportation sometime in the New Year.