The departure of Greyhound passenger bus service has left Transportation Minister Claire Trevena in a bit of a pickle.
With a great deal of fanfare last May, the NDP government patted itself on the back for launching a bare bones replacement bus service, called BC Bus North, when Greyhound initially announced it was withdrawing service from just its northern routes. The $2-million program is a temporary, one-year “interim” service that offers only two round trips per week between Prince Rupert and Dawson Creek, and once a week between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is good for us in the north, but plans need to be set in place for what happened after BC Bus North goes away.
Now, communities outside of Metro Vancouver suddenly find themselves cut off without any alternative services to fall back on after Greyhound announced it will cease all passenger operations in Western Canada the end of October. This provides Trevena with little time to come up with a solution for the whole province, not just Northern B.C.
We are talking about the same transportation minister who fumbled the ride-sharing file. Trevena has been forced to admit that we won’t see the likes of Uber or Lyft until at least the end of 2019, if at all. This means there will be few private sector solutions available to fill the void left by Greyhound. A new online reservation service has been announced between Nelson and Kelowna by Silver City Stagelines, but that doesn’t help our region very much.
Trevena is therefore in a terribly weak position to sell a new idea to her cabinet colleagues and ask for millions and millions of dollars to set up a brand new public transportation network throughout the province. Provincial coffers are already running rather low after the government recently settled contract agreements with its public sector unions.
This leaves precious little room to deliver on brand new programs, especially when the NDP is still struggling to find money to fulfill campaign promises left over from the last election. For example, I know there are still quite a few folks wondering what happened to $10-a-day childcare and people are still wondering about that $400 annual rebate for renters.
The private sector might be able to help fill the gap, but Trevena must get a move on before passengers are left stranded.
Dan Davies is the BC Liberal MLA for Peace River North.