Saskatchewan

Holiday travellers have limited bus options post-STC

People looking for a ride on Saskatchewan's highways may be out of luck if they're travelling outside major cities.

10 companies have been approved, only 3 offer scheduled passenger service after bus service shutdown

The STC ended service on May 31, 2017. (Peter Mills/CBC)

People who relied on the Saskatchewan Transportation Company for a ride to see family and friends during the holidays may be out of luck this year.

Since the Crown-owned transportation company was shut down by the provincial government at the end of May, 10 companies have been approved by the Highway Traffic Board to provide passenger service.

However, one of them already appears to be out of business and only three of them offer scheduled passenger service: Rider Express Transportation (Regina), DiCal Transport (Melville) and Alsask Bus Services (Alsask).

STC used to service around 200 communities. Today, there are regular scheduled trips to fewer than 30.

Melville resident RaeAnne Ellert is someone who relied on STC to travel a few times per month. She said she has a disability that prevents her from driving. 

"I'm not going to lie, I panicked a little bit when I first heard [STC was being shut down]," she said. "I go to Regina all the time because I'm very into music and art. And as much as I love Melville, there's not much of it here."

Ellert said she has heard the suggestion that travellers like her can just ask family and friends for rides from a number of people, including the minister responsible for STC, Joe Hargrave — which she doesn't appreciate.

"I was disgusted when I heard it. Being someone who has a learning disability and has actually dealt with comments like that throughout my life … that really made me upset because my independence is really important to me."

Ellert said she is very grateful for the services DiCal now provides.

No plans to expand

Forward Coach Lines was also planning to offer service to and from Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert by August, but it appears they are already out of the business.

The owner of Rider Express, Firat Uray, confirmed the two companies considered a merge, but it ultimately didn't work out. 

The owner of Forward Coach Lines could not be reached for comment.

The other approved companies include:

  • Engelheim Charter.
  • Carpe Diem Limousine Service.
  • Southland Transportation.
  • Vanbango Party Bus Ltd.
  • Crown Cab.
  • 102024360 Saskatchewan Corporation.

Five of those companies do not have plans to offer scheduled passenger service.

Shane Engel with Engelheim Charter — which has been offering charted bus trips in the province since 1975 — said the company is not completely closing the door on anything, but did not determine scheduled passenger service to be worth it at this time.

The owner of 102024360 Saskatchewan Corporation could not be reached for comment. In its application to the Highway Traffic Board, the company said it is "proposing the use of seven passenger minivans to start (includes driver). They will look at purchasing 15 passenger vans in the future."

Greyhound hurting

Some may have believed the closure of STC would be good news for private companies like Greyhound. That hasn't been the case.

In Saskatchewan, Greyhound only offers trips to communities on the Trans-Canada and Yellowhead highways. 

Greyhound has seen its ridership decrease since the STC shutdown. (CBC)

Since STC was shut down, Greyhound's ridership has declined, the company says.

"We've experienced about a 20 per cent decrease along the Trans-Canada Highway and 12 per cent decrease along the Yellowhead Highway," a Greyhound spokesperson said in an email to CBC News.

Where and when can you ride?

Rider Express Transportation currently offers trips to and from Regina, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. A one-way ticket from Regina to Saskatoon is $60, which is slightly more than what STC charged in its final year. Students and seniors receive $10 off. You can find more information on Rider Express routes and prices here.

DiCal Transport has been operating in Saskatchewan since 2010 as a courier, moving and delivery business. In July, it started offering passenger service in the Yorkton area because it wanted to fill a hole left by the STC.

The company now offers trips to eight different communities and plans to include a trip to Saskatoon in the future. More information on DiCal's routes and prices is here.

Alsask Bus Services has been offering scheduled passenger service on Highway 7 from Saskatoon to the Alberta border for several years. On Dec. 15, it added a Regina-Saskatoon route for $45, which is slightly cheaper than the regular adult fare charged by STC. You can get more information on Alsask Bus Service routes and prices here.

About the Author

Peter Mills is an Associate Producer with the Morning Edition on CBC Radio One in Saskatchewan. Follow him on Twitter @TweeterMillsCBC. Do you have a story idea? Email peter.mills@cbc.ca.