Greyhound bus passengers traveling to and from Prince George will have less frequent service options as a result of scheduling changes approved by the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB)
The board approved reductions for 15 bus routes in the province in an application filed in September by Greyhound Canada Transportation ULC (GCTU).
The Highway 16 route between Prince George and Prince Rupert has been cut from a minimum of 22 total weekly trips to 14, but will maintain its current daily schedule of at least one trip in each direction. Fort St. James will see its weekly schedule of trips to and from Prince George reduced from six to one.
The minimum frequency along the Prince George-Vancouver route was chopped from three daily trips each way to two per day. Dawson Creek-Prince George was reduced from 24 trips per week to 14, and weekly stops at Bear Lake were cut from 19 to 14.
"This decision for the reductions by the Passenger Transportation Board allows Greyhound to reduce its frequency without abandoning any service in the province and allows us to right side the business based on demand," said Grant Odsen, regional manager of passenger service for Greyhound Canada.
"We haven't abandoned those communities, albeit we have reduced service. The fact of the matter is we can't continue to provide services at a loss."
Greyhound claims it lost $14.1 million on its scheduled passenger operations in B.C. during the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2012, which exceeded Greyhound's total losses for all of Canada in 2008-09. Greyhound cites higher fuel and maintenance costs, reduced ridership, provincial regulations that do not allow rapid responses to changing market and economic conditions, and the existence of unregulated competition from provincial agencies including BC Transit and the Interior and Northern Health Authorities as contributing factors to its losses in B.C.
In its application, Greyhound said it has lost passengers in northern B.C. because it can't compete with the provincially-funded Northern Health Connections bus service. Operated by Diversified Transportation, the Northern Health bus transports patients from smaller communities to larger population centres for treatment. Greyhound claims passengers are subsidized between 80 and 90 per cent of the cost of those trips without having to show a physician's referral for that service. However, the board determined 99.3 per cent of those trips were verified as medical trips, proven by forms presented before or after the trips were made. The board also found that Northern Health Connections passengers who failed to supply any proof of medical need were flagged to provide pre-trip verification on their next trip.
In 2006, when the Northern Health service began operating, about 3,000 riders utilized the service. In 2011, ridership grew to 12,000, which has eaten into Greyhound revenues.