Greyhound Canada appears to be finished providing passenger and freight service to Osoyoos — a last bus rolling into the community Sunday afternoon, three days ahead of a scheduled shutdown of services in Western Canada.
The busing company’s departure from the community has left Osoyoos — at least temporarily — with limited intercity passenger service.
“There is nothing from Rock Creek west to Hope, so nothing for the Similkameen or South Okanagan,” noted Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson, who rose in the Legislature Monday to share her frustration.
“Rural transportation in B.C. is a priority — for students who need to get to training in larger centres, for seniors needing to get to doctors’ appointments and connect to families, for those who work in other B.C. communities,” she told MLAs. “A safe and reliable form of transportation is not a luxury, but a necessity.
“I stand in this House today on behalf of rural residents across this province and let the government know that our transportation needs should be a priority.”
In July, citing a 41-percent decline in ridership since 2010, Greyhound Canada announced that except for a single route between Vancouver and Seattle, Wash. it would be halting passenger and freight operations in Western Canada — including daily runs to Osoyoos from Kelowna and Kamloops — November 1.
But a memo provided to Nk’Mip Corner, Greyhound’s final stop on an Okanagan route from Kamloops and Kelowna, indicates the company has suspended service for the final three days it would be operating in the province.
Nk’Mip Corner staff said they’ve been told not to accept any more packages. Buses turning around in Osoyoos have arrived with few passengers and departed with even less, they added.
Many larger BC communities have found new service with local and regional providers. In the BC Interior, however, Hwy. 3 has no regular service between Rock Creek and Hope.
In the South Okanagan, BC Transit currently provides a Monday to Saturday service from Osoyoos to Penticton, leaving Osoyoos at 7:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and returning at 10:10 a.m. and 3:40 p.m.
On Monday, the 7:15 a.m. bus continues to Kelowna. That bus leaves Kelowna for Osoyoos at 2:35 p.m.
A regular Penticton-Kelowna transit service connecting the South Okanagan-Similkameen to Central Okanagan was identified as a top priority in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) Transit Future Plan.
Ms. Larson is calling on the provincial government to proactively push for service improvements throughout the riding — and in other Interior communities left without bus service.
“Without a subsidy or a more thorough plan of action from this government, the cost of obtaining even basic access to services will be out of reach for those who are of lower socioeconomic status,” she said.
“Absence of an affordable mode of transportation means that these individuals will have to turn to total dependence on friends, neighbours and family. This is not in the best interest of our citizens. We need to do better.”
The provincial government has pledged to review service interruptions.
“Understandably, the news of Greyhound’s full withdrawal from western Canada and parts of Ontario has understandably resulted in people feeling worried and uncertain about what that means for their everyday lives and how they will continue getting around safely, affordably, especially in rural communities,” replied MLA Jennifer Rice, the Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness.
“We, this government, share this concern, and we want people to know that their government hears them and that they will not be left stranded without access to transportation.”