Greyhound bus cuts will hurt vulnerable residents in some B.C. communities

Squamish Chief

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It might soon be harder for the people who are already struggling to access services only available outside of the Sea to Sky Corridor.

Sea to Sky Community Services is concerned that Greyhound bus cuts will make life difficult for Squamish’s most vulnerable residents.

Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

Lisa Young, homeless prevention and outreach worker with Sea to Sky Community Services, said the organization currently supplies clients with Greyhound tickets for accessing services out of the community.

That can include everything from dental services to attending court appointments. In addition to transit to Vancouver, clients also rely on buses to access treatment and recovery centres for addictions or getting CT scans in Whistler.

“It will significantly affect our clients,” said Young. “We don’t know what to do, but I’m hoping something else comes in. It sounds like lots of people are trying to find different solutions.”

On July 12, Greyhound Canada announced it would shut down all bus routes in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba by Nov.1.

One bus route connecting Vancouver and Seattle will remain, but all other routes in the western part of the country will end. Greyhound said the rural routes are too expensive to continue running.

The regional closure is the latest of many local cuts to the service. In 2013, the company reduced the number of Squamish buses from seven to four.

After the bus routes stop running, Young said clients may need to rely on paying friends with a car for the trip, but it can be straining for those working on a tight income. “Many don’t have a ton of money, so that is difficult. It’s a matter of brainstorming and trying to figure out what we’re going to do for our clients,” she said.

Many people need to access specialized medical services outside the community. As examples, Young said clients may travel as close to Vancouver for dental services, or as far as Armstrong, B.C., for specialized residential treatment centres.

The Greyhound bus also connects Whistler and Squamish to the nearest courthouses in North Vancouver.

Since the local courthouse closed in 2002, those facing charges are required to attend court down the highway.

Young said the legal system rarely provides accommodation for difficult transit circumstances.

In some cases, that can mean a warrant for arrest even on minor charges, or being additionally charged with a failure to appear.

Last week, the Angus Reid Institute released a poll that surveyed Canadians on whether provincial and federal governments should step in to replace Greyhound.

The poll found 56 per cent of respondents agreed that “the government should step in to maintain rural and northern bus services” because “they are vital to communities.”

The other group of respondents, at 44 per cent, agreed that “it should not be up to the government to maintain these services. Private businesses can fill the gaps if there is enough demand.”

The split was slightly more supportive in B.C., where 60 per cent of survey takers favoured a government-run bus service.

Only a quarter of people who took the survey said they know someone who will be personally affected by the closures.

Although Squamish is not as remote as other communities who rely on Greyhound, regional transit between Pemberton and Vancouver does not yet exist.

BC Transit has put the price tag on that service at $3.3 million, but the different levels of government will still need to determine how it can be funded.

In the meantime, a number of local companies in Squamish said they are working to fill the gap that the reduced bus service will leave, including ride-sharing company Poparide and commuter bus Squamish Connector.