Poor bus connections leave passengers 'stranded' in isolated community after Greyhound departure
East-west connections to not run smoothly after national carrier pulls out October 31
The mayor of a small town in northwestern Ontario says it's not right that cross-country bus passengers will be left stranded, with no warm place to stay, when Greyhound ends its service October 31.
Angelo Bazzoni, the mayor of White River, Ont., said passengers will have to find somewhere to go when they make a layover of up to 14 hours in his community. 800 people live in White River.
"None of these businesses can sustain the individuals sitting around five or six hours waiting to make connections," Bazzoni said, referring to the couple of restaurants and gas stations that line Highway 17.
There is no actual bus station in White River. Passengers get on and off at the local Esso or Husky stations, depending on the carrier.
The local coffee shop, as well as restaurants close at 10 p.m. The community bills itself as the 'Coldest Spot in Canada' with a record low temperature of -58 C. Some routes that run into the community only run five or six days a week.
Motel rooms are difficult to find, with most rooms booked up every night, sometimes weeks in advance.
It's not just stranded passengers that worry the mayor. The bus service also brought large volumes of cargo to and from small communities, often acting as the unofficial courier.
Bazzoni, and others who live along Highway 17 said they want to give a new local company, Kasper Transportation a chance, but want to ensure the service is also sustainable. Some days, the shuttle running between White River and Thunder Bay is empty, or with just one passenger.
Other business owners along the North Shore of Lake Superior said they will have to make alternate plans to bring in cargo once Greyhound ceases service.
"Our movies come in from Winnipeg, by Greyhound," said Bonnie Gingras, the operator of the movie theatre in Marathon, Ont., about an hour west of White River.
"We're going to have to figure something else out, and we've got a month to go."
Rail service is difficult to access in Northern Ontario, with the vast number of communities not on the CN Mainline, which for the most part, runs north of the East-West provincial highway system. However, there is one service, the Sudbury-White River train, that provides an essential service to otherwise remote communities.
Staff running the VIA Rail Sudbury-White River train said they believe the Budd Car system (a 2 car train which is self propelled) could be expanded to provide better service to Northern Ontario, along with more communities. Staff felt if VIA was to add additional connections into Toronto, they believe ridership would increase, and make the White River-Sudbury train more profitable.
The VIA Budd car service runs only three days a week, but also serves a handful of communities accessible only by rail.
"It's going to be missed," said Bazzoni, referring to the Greyhound service.