Cancellation of Greyhound bus service in Western Canada leaves UBC community members in the lurch

UBC’s community members are “surprised and dismayed” by Greyhound Canada’s recent announcement that it will cancel all bus routes in Western Canada, except for the Vancouver-Seattle route run by its American counterpart.

The cut, taking effect on October 31, has been attributed to a steady decrease in ridership and profit for these routes in recent years. But this decision would take away an affordable and accessible option for travelling, especially for low-income individuals and those who live in remote communities — according to UBC’s community members.

For third-year student Casey Broughton, who has traveled home to Kelowna often on a monthly basis over the last two years, the cost for his trips will “now more than double (at least).”

“I’ll probably just have to cut my visits down to Christmas and other longer visits where flying makes economic sense,” Broughton said in a message to The Ubyssey. “I was already flying in winter to avoid the wrath of a Coquihalla snowstorm, but I can’t afford to fly as much as I bus currently.”

The big difference in cost between bussing with Greyhound and taking a flight to its major destinations is another common discussion.

“What?! It's only 260 bucks to go to Toronto on the Greyhound from Vancouver. That blows, the airlines aren't that cheap at all,” commented Reddit user 5ur3540t.

Greyhound Canada acknowledged that students may be particularly impacted by these changes, while reiterating that they wouldn’t take effect until the end of October.

“We appreciate that these route changes are difficult for our customers, including students who are among our most frequent travelers,” wrote Greyhound Regional VP for Western Canada Peter Hamel in an emailed statement to The Ubyssey.

Beyond the issue of affordability, significant concerns have also been raised about how the decision would impact the accessibility and safety of individuals living in rural or remote communities, where public transportation is limited. In particular, this gap has long been considered a contributing factor to the disappearances and murders of Indigenous women and girls, as they were forced to hitchhike to travel.

“Bus service is not just another perk, it is a vital service for many people who don't or can't drive in all smaller towns in BC,” wrote student Ilya Kapralov in a Facebook post. “I don't quite understand what are the alternatives for a million people who are left cut out from the transportation infrastructure.”

“The recent cuts to Greyhound routes throughout the western provinces will exacerbate the risk and vulnerability of Indigenous Women and Girls,” reads the July 11 media release from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“The National Inquiry calls on all levels of government, federal, provincial and Indigenous, to step in and provide solutions on this urgent matter.”

Impact on UBC

Greyhound’s decision could also have an impact on the university itself.

Dr. Gordon Lovegrove, a UBC Okanagan (UBCO) associate professor of applied science with a focus in transportation planning, said the cut could make in-person research collaborations between the two UBC campuses more difficult and even limit student research opportunities as well.

“More research funding will be used to pay for faculty trips between campuses, unless they can Skype or teleconference,” said Lovegrove, noting that senior faculty may have more financial means to fly back and forth than junior faculty members.

“[Faculty] could [also] be taking research money away that could have been able to support more student researchers [and] the opportunity cost may be fewer opportunities for student research positions.”

UBCO VP Research Philip Barker responded that UBC will monitor this issue in the coming months.

“It’s too early to say what impact the route cancellations could have on research costs and collaborations as they’ve to take place,” said Barker in an emailed statement to The Ubyssey.

But amidst personal and academic concerns regarding Greyhound’s decision, Lovegrove noted that alternative solutions do exist, such as ridesharing for students who still need affordable ground travel. Electric rail is another solution that has been mentioned, but it remains a long ways away from realization if ever approved.

“Everybody’s talking about this. We’ve grown up with Greyhound,” said Lovegrove. “The alternatives are out there, but it’s just the convenience factor has gone out the window.”

He also expressed optimism for what this drastic cut could mean for future strategic planning for transportation in BC and beyond. The BC provincial government recently announced that it would “fast-track” applications from companies offering inter-city bus service to communities left without service after Greyhound’s departure from Western Canada.

“It’s just sad that it no longer works,” he said. “People are despairing, but we’ll pick ourselves up and find a way to make it work without Greyhound.

“And it’s my hope that this will spur some long-term strategic discussions about what’s a more sustainable way [and] a healthier way to travel.”