Greyhound bus cancellations: Should affordable transportation be considered an essential service?

Greyhound bus service in much of Western Canada is about to become history. With many rural communities relying on transportation to access health care, some argue the government needs to subsidize this service.

Everyone should have safe access to transportation, says UBC professor

An executive from Greyhound Canada told the CBC the transportation company has been asking the federal government to help fund rural routes in Western Canada for years. (Dave Chidley/CBC)
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When Greyhound Canada shuts down most of its services in Western Canada, rural and remote communities who rely on them as a lifeline will suffer the most, says one expert.

Penny Gurstein, a UBC professor at the school of community and regional planning, argues that the federal government should intervene because route closures will cut off access to essential services like health care.

"[It's a] right for people to have safe, affordable access to transportation," Gurstein told The Current's Duncan McCue.

"I don't think that [the government] can just rely on the private sector at this point."

Low-income residents, seniors and youth will be hit the hardest, she added.

Greyhound Canada announced Monday it will cancel bus routes in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and all but one route in B.C. between Seattle and Vancouver by November 1.

The company had been pushing for government to subsidize rural routes for years but was unsuccessful.

Transport Canada said in a statement to The Current that a 2010 task force found "there was no need for a national program to subsidise the operations of intercity bus carriers but that individual jurisdictions could subsidize specific routes and carriers on a case by case basis."

Flo Devellennes, co-founder of the ridesharing app Poparide, hopes to fill the transportation gaps left behind by the Greyhound cancellations. 

He created the app to provide safe transportation after noticing people were relying on Craiglist to find affordable rides. Drivers and hopeful passengers are matched up through the app which he said includes safety features and verification services that are monitored.

"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here. People have been ridesharing in many countries across the world and this system works," Devellennes told McCue. 

"So if we can get government to support it and sanction it then I think the adoption and the safety concerns will be alleviated, especially if the regulations are put in place."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this post.


With files from CBC News. This segment was produced by The Current's Jessica Linzey, Danielle Carr and Samira Mohyeddin.