(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

Fragmented bus service market emerges as Greyhound exits Western Canada Oct. 31

The company is laying off about 420 employees

A hodge-podge of public transportation services are already starting to fill the gap as Greyhound Canada moves steadily towards its midnight Halloween disappearance from most of Western Canada.

The venerable national motor coach operator is being replaced by a mix of provincial government-subsidized services, Indigenous-owned bus lines, locally owned startups, flexible fleets of shuttle buses and a scattering of formal and informal ride-sharing services.

And passengers aren’t waiting for the last Greyhound next Wednesday to check out new options — according to Stuart Kendrick, senior vice-president of Greyhound Canada, ticket sales have already fallen off to the point that some route frequencies are being reduced.

“Demand is quite low as we run into this last week or 10 days,” he said in a recent interview.

“You’ve got single-digit riderships on the schedule that we have left throughout Western Canada, so that’s probably about a 50 or 60 or 70 per cent decline based on what corridor you look at.”

The company plans to stop selling tickets on long-distance routes a few days before the buses stop running to help ensure passengers aren’t left stranded and holding the unused half of a two-way ticket, Kendrick said.

READ MORE: New bus route to ‘replace’ Greyhound along Trans-Canada Highway

The loss of Greyhound spells opportunity for Regina-based Rider Express, a company that began operating a handful of 15-passenger minibuses on inner-provincial routes shortly after government-owned Saskatchewan Transportation Company shut down its bus services in the spring of 2017.

Rider has acquired five full-sized 50-seat buses and plans to begin passenger service on a Vancouver-Calgary-Winnipeg route on the Trans-Canada Highway this week, followed in November by a Highway 16 route linking Edmonton and Saskatoon, said manager Shauna Hardy. Both routes will directly replace Greyhound routes.

The interest from Saskatchewan residents has been “overwhelming,” she said, adding the company is being asked to take on more routes but has so far declined.

Late last May, Calgary-based Pacific Western Transportation was hired by the province of British Columbia to operate its BC Bus North service after Greyhound cancelled service to communities including Prince Rupert and Dawson Creek.

Greyhound’s announcement in July that it would exit almost all of Western Canada convinced the company to offer its own inter-city services in B.C. for the first time, said John Stepovy, director of business development. He added the company is also expanding its Alberta offerings.

He said he thinks his company can provide the hub in a hub-and-spoke business model as Greyhound closes — it’s already in discussions with operators of small-scale shuttle bus and transit operators about establishing connections with his firm’s routes.

“Overall, long-term, where the needs are, where there’s demand, we would anticipate voids will be filled but it could take a little bit of time for those things to shake out once the landscape changes,” Stepovy said.

“Discount airlines coming in will probably take on some of that longer-haul (Greyhound demand),” he said. “For bus travel, That one-to-five/six-hour travel time is kind of in the sweet spot.”

He added “disruptors” — new travel options such as Poparides, an app that matches passengers with drivers who happen to be going to the same destinations — are also expected to fill the gap.

Indigenous-owned charter service Kelsey Bus Lines is being renamed Mahihkan Bus Lines and has announced plans to offer daily passenger routes from Thompson and Flin Flon in northern Manitoba to Winnipeg, as well as freight service.

In Alberta, the provincial government has launched pilot programs at a cost of $2.8 million to help five rural municipalities start inter-city bus services. One, centred on Camrose, about 100 kilometres south of Edmonton, has already started and the others are expected to begin over the next three months.

The fragmented inter-city transportation model that is emerging can be a positive change, said Barry Prentice, professor of transportation economics at the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business.

Greyhound likely failed in Western Canada in part because its costs were too high and it lacked the flexibility to respond to changing markets because it carried freight as well as passengers, he said.

“As long as they were in the market, it was hard for anyone else to come in. Now that they’re gone, it creates an opportunity,” he said.

Most new services are planning to pick up and drop off passengers at hotels, gas stations or tourist information centres. Prentice said that means they won’t be burdened with the costly terminal network Greyhound had to maintain.

Kendrick said shutting down all routes from northern Ontario to the West Coast involves a “significant cost’ to Greyhound Canada.

He said it’s expected to take several months to sublet its leased real estate and sell its few owned facilities, which include maintenance shops in centres such as Edmonton, Red Deer, Prince Rupert, Prince George and Winnipeg.

The company is laying off about 420 employees. It will move 70 or 80 of its 110 western buses to its ongoing operations in Eastern Canada and sell or scrap the rest.

A Seattle-Vancouver route operated by Greyhound U.S. will continue to use a Vancouver terminal leased by the Canadian arm. Kendrick said the company plans to ask other bus companies to come in as tenants to fill unused capacity there.

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

The KLO Community Policing Office is located within the Regional District of Central Okanagan building on KLO Road. (File)
Kelowna council to consider closure of KLO Community Policing Office

Since May 2020, the office has been effectively closed, with duties absorbed into the Kelowna Police Services Building

A Kelowna Chamber of Commerce event in 2017. (Contributed)
Kelowna Chamber announces new board of directors

Directors will be ratified at the annual general meeting on March 23

Mussel inspection sit set up at B.C.-Alberta border. (Contributed)
Okanagan Basin Water Board calls for stronger invasive mussel protection

Letter sets out six recommendations for environment minister George Heyman to consider

(BCCDC)
42 cases of COVID-19 in the Central Okanagan last week

Officials have identified almost 3,000 cases of the virus in the Central Okanagan throughout the pandemic

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Thomas Kruger-Allen is expected to be sentenced Friday, March 5, 2021.
Sentencing expected Friday for 2019 Penticton beach attack

Defense wants 12 to 18 months for beach assaults that left one of his victims with brain injury

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A herd of turkeys caused a traffic jam in Armstrong March 3. (Video still)
Turkeys talk back at traffic in Spallumcheen

VIDEO: ‘Bossy little buggers refused to move’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(File photo)
Kamloops Mountie bitten while arresting woman

The assault on March 1 is the latest in a string of incidents that have left local officers injured

Most Read