Poor bus connections leave passengers 'stranded' in isolated community after Greyhound departure

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.

East-west connections to not run smoothly after national carrier pulls out October 31

An Ontario Northland motorcoach departs White River, Ont., for Hearst. The company's connections do not match up with the Kasper Transportation service which operates west to Thunder Bay and Manitoba. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

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.

"You can't leave passengers off in small, isolated communities where nothing's open."
Bus passengers travelling across Canada will have to wait at this gas station in White River, Ont., to make connections heading west. They may have to wait up to 14 hours in the small community to make their connection. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

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.

"The smaller, rural communities, we rely on it to get water samples to the city, it happens daily," he said. Blood samples, pharmaceuticals and vehicle parts for stranded travellers would often be loaded onto the Greyhound for quick delivery.
This gas station and fast food restaurant is where most buses make their connections in White River, Ont. The businesses close at 10 p.m. meaning passengers arriving or departing during the night wait outside in a dark parking lot. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

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."

"I think some provincial leaders should be mandated to come to these communities and talk to the mayors' groups so we can put together a business plan, something that makes sense," said Bazzoni, noting some sort of provincial subsidy may be necessary to ensure Northerners aren't stranded in the middle of the night.
The VIA Rail Budd Car service, also known as the Sudbury - White River Train could be expanded to offer an additional transportation option to those living along Highway 17 in Northwestern Ontario. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

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.

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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