Longtime Greyhound bus rider demands better service for northern Ontario
'We have lives and we need to be respected and I'm not standing for this'
A longtime Greyhound bus rider — says the transportation company has "a complete lack of disregard for their customers" in northern Ontario.
Julianne Smit-Brousseau left Elliot Lake on Jan. 10, expecting to meet up with a Greyhound bus in Blind River, make a connection in Sudbury, and end up in Ottawa by 7:30 a.m. the next day.
Instead, she sat in a Tim Hortons in Blind River for nine hours, took an extra bus to Toronto, and wound up arriving in Ottawa at 7:40 p.m. — doubling her 12-hour trip.
"We're not pawns in a game," Smit-Brousseau says. "We have lives and we need to be respected and I'm not standing for this."
Overnight in a Tim Hortons
Smit-Brousseau was in her hometown of Elliot Lake to visit her parents. She says she's been taking Greyhound buses since she was seven years of age, and her most recent trip proves there's been a serious decline in service.
Smit-Brousseau says she arrived in Blind River around 9 p.m. with two other passengers. Originally, the group was told there would be a four-hour delay. When the bus didn't show around 2 a.m., Brousseau says she called Greyhound's customer service line to get an update.
"They told me, 'we have no idea where the bus is, we have no idea where it's going to be, where it is, where it's stuck'," says Smit-Brousseau.
'Don't let people sit ... and rot'
Once the bus reached Blind River, the driver told Smit-Brousseau the bus that was on the way from Sudbury had broken down, en route to Sault Ste. Marie.
The waylaid bus was fixed, but Smit-Brousseau says no one called her or her fellow passengers to give an update.
David Butler, Greyhound's vice president for eastern Canada, told CBC News all buses have GPS tracking for staff. And if a bus is significantly delayed, the terminals will be alerted.
But because Smit-Brousseau was in something the company called a "flagstop" — a stop without a Greyhound-specific location — the next best thing is to alert terminals close by.
Regardless of cause, Smit-Brousseau says she wants better updates for customers.
"They don't have any place for you to get an update on what's going on," Smit-Brousseau says.
"There's no reason I can't log in somewhere and see where the bus is or where things are at. It's 2017, there's no reason for that. Don't let people sit and ponder and rot."
Butler says there is an app that allows customers to track the status of their bus in the US, but not in Canada. He says the company is hoping to introduce that service to Canadians later this year.
Long waits potentially dangerous?
Smit-Brousseau says if there were more buses running that route, the entire situation could have been avoided.
Butler says the company has had to make cuts to their "Trans Canada line" between Toronto and Winnipeg, the route Smit-Brousseau travels.
"The frequency is down to once a day, and it's been as much as three times a day in peak periods like the summer. But recently, about 16 months ago, we went down to once-a-day due to low ridership."
But it's not the waiting that upset Smit-Brousseau. It's where the waiting happens that worries her.
"They're putting people's safety at risk by making people wait," she says.
"We were lucky to have a Tim Hortons to wait in. Sometimes you might have it at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. So let's just say you're a single woman and you're waiting alone. Or it's really cold out. This is dangerous."
Full refund and apology
Butler says the company is giving Smit-Brousseau and two passengers full refunds and apologies for what they went through.
But what Smit-Brousseau says she really wants is change. She's says she's sending letters to local politicians, demanding better service for northern Ontario.
"You can't treat paying customers or people like they don't matter. I'm not going to give up. I'm going to make sure something is changed."