Greyhound pullout affects parts shipments

Company’s decision to end its service in Western Canada also leaves many rural residents in the lurch who can’t drive

Greyhound Canada’s plans to end almost all services in Western Canada not only affects rural residents who can’t drive, it has ramifications for dealers and farmers who need to ship parts.

While many dealers say impacts will be minimal, some heavily rely on the service, particularly in British Columbia.

“It’s going to have a reasonably good-sized impact on how farmers around here are going to get their stuff,” said Brenda Noble, operations manager of Noble Tractor & Equipment in Armstrong, B.C.

She said many farmers in the Cariboo region rely on Greyhound because other courier services run less frequently. She’s begun to warn customers to depend on other means to get their parts.

Greyhound announced earlier this month that it will end all service starting Oct. 31 in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. B.C. will continue to have one route, a line between Vancouver and Seattle.

Greyhound said in a statement that reasons for its departure include declining ridership, which decreased by 41 percent since 2010; competition from subsidized services; low-cost airlines; and growth in car ownership.

While the company had previously been scaling back, ending service completely will affect roughly two million customers and result in 415 people being laid off.

The decision has upset many rural transit advocates, who have said Greyhound’s service is vital for people who can’t drive or don’t have someone to get them around. Some seniors also rely on the service to access medical treatment.

“This is absolutely horrifying,” said Lynn Pye-Matheson, executive director with Grasslands Regional Family and Community Support Services, an organization that delivers preventive social programming in the Brooks, Alta., area.

“Decisions like this have the potential to negatively impact people and their communities, socially and economically.”

While dealers like Noble will have to adapt, others say they won’t be heavily affected because they don’t primarily use Greyhound.

“We don’t use them a lot anymore because it was getting to the point where it was becoming unreliable,” said Shane Mann, a sales representative at the Hanlon Ag Centre in Lethbridge.

“Most stuff now comes through the courier because it’s faster. Greyhound kind of went the way of the rotary phone. It disappeared.”

Ronnie Chua, who schedules shipping and receiving with the Pentagon Farm Centre in Lacombe, Alta., said it’s mostly B.C. that still relies on Greyhound, particularly in the Armstrong, Chilliwack and Salmon Arm areas.

Lloydminster also relies on Greyhound somewhat, he said, but noted other courier services have become more popular.

“The impact will depend on what’s already available to people,” Chua said.

Some advocates are calling on the federal government to step in and address the situation so Greyhound doesn’t leave.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who had planned to bring up the issue at the Council of the Federation meeting, an annual gathering of provincial premiers, in New Brunswick on July 18, said in a statement that the decision significantly diminishes transportation options for hundreds of Canadians, and this could potentially harm the economy and people’s quality of life.

Delphine Denis, spokesperson for federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, said in an email the government is in communication with Greyhound and will monitor the situation to see how the proposed reductions will affect Canadians.

Greyhound has said it has been in discussions with federal and provincial governments about investments in rural transportation.

The bus company is the latest to exit the business on the Prairies.

Last year, Saskatchewan shut down the STC bus service, affecting both riders and dealers shipping parts. The province argued STC was becoming too costly.

Alberta has recently launched two rural bus pilot projects, one connecting Camrose to Edmonton and the other connecting Grande Prairie to surrounding communities. Without Greyhound, however, rural Albertans will have few options.

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