PENTICTON - Municipalities in the South Okanagan and Similkameen are concerned and responding to a public notice issued by Greyhound Canada to cut service through the two regions.
The service cuts would reduce route frequencies to two per week and eliminate some route points, and if allowed by the B.C. Passenger Transportation Safety Board would take effect sometime in 2018.
In the South Okanagan and Similkameen, the Kelowna to Penticton and the Vancouver to Osoyoos runs would be affected, with Osoyoos, Manning Park, Eastgate, Princeton, Hedley and Keremeos eliminated as route points.
The proposed service cuts were raised at yesterday’s, Sept. 19, Penticton City Council meeting.
Council debated whether or not to send a letter of concern to the transportation board in unison with the Similkameen communities of Keremeos and Princeton, with council approving a motion to send a letter of concern and support for a review of the elimination of service.
Princeton mayor Frank Armitage sent a letter to Greyhound Canada, noting the last time services were reduced to the community in 2012, the town received a letter requesting comments on the proposal.
“Why was that not done this time?” he asked, adding the town had received negative feedback from resident about scheduling changes.
Keremeos mayor Manfred Bauer said he would be introducing a motion at tomorrow’s Regional District of Okanagan SImilkameen meeting requesting the board also send a letter.
“As far as I’m concerned, Greyhound has a monopoly on public transportation in the area, and the reason they got that is because they agreed to cover the less profitable rural areas in order to get the big ones,” he said.
He said the company has been slowly eroding away on the promise "to cover everything to get what they figured at the time was more profitable."
Bauer hopes all local governments will let the transportation board know about their concerns.
“Their argument is there is less and less ridership. Well obviously the more you downgrade service the less ridership you will have,” he said, an observation echoed by Keremeos Greyhound depot manager Aaron Beauchamps.
“They keep changing the schedule, which makes it more and more difficult for riders to get here on a regular basis. The last changes they made took the daytime runs away, turned them into night time runs at midnight going to Vancouver and 5 a.m. going to Penticton,” Beauchamps said.
“That screwed a lot of people up, because they couldn’t get to the bus. They eliminated the run to Osoyoos, and you can’t get on a bus that goes east anymore,” he said.
Beauchamp says Greyhound plans to maintain a three times per week freight service that will probably operate with a van, providing enough presence to satisfy minimum contract requirements with the government.
He says ridership is down in Keremeos in the five years he’s operated the depot, but blames it on the steady reduction in service and changes in scheduling.
“For example, you can no longer get to Penticton and back in the same day. As soon as you eliminate that daily service, then you’ve lost half your ridership,” he said.
Without revealing dollar amounts, Beauchamp says the Keremeos depot in the not-too-distant past once made seven times what he takes in today.
“Every time there was a reduction in service, the numbers dropped. Today, people are buying tickets online, even in Keremeos, and we get none of that in revenue. Because of that, you can no longer use local ticket sales as a gauge to indicate local ridership numbers, and that’s also revenue of which we make nothing on."
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