In downtown Medicine Hat sits an empty grey building which used to have traffic run through it, with large buses with a silver greyhound stamped on the side.
In fact, there are probably scores of blue and red, rectangular shaped signs with the famous silver dog running in full flight. Now, the famous bus line signs if not already removed are in tatters, much like many smaller prairie communities where time, people and money left them.
With the news May 13 of Greyhound Canada ending its bus service in the last bastion in Canada, Ontario and Quebec, Greyhound Canada abruptly put the famous symbolic dog down.
“Due to sustained ridership declines in Ontario and Quebec, Greyhound Canada has made the difficult decision to discontinue all operations on its remaining routes in Ontario and Quebec, and will permanently close all services in Canada effective May 13,” reads the May 13th media update.
This was planned for a while as the Greyhound Canada website is chalk full of rationale on why they ceased operations. While Greyhound ended its passenger and commercial routes on the prairies Oct. 31, 2018, it was a grim reminder and reminiscing of bygone era where people used the bus.
With the changes in communications technology, more people acquiring vehicles and sadly many people in the rural areas forced to move to the city, and Covid’s restrictions in the last year and a half in Ontario and Quebec, passenger service numbers are undoubtedly down.
It is a vicious cycle. Commercial packages are probably also down as businesses struggle to maintain business in the world of online shopping. For many, smaller communities have been hurt by places like Amazon or by big box stores’ online shopping service. There is limited desire to necessarily shop local and businesses close down or have less packages to send out. Smaller communities suffer and wither and shrink to nothing.
Rural Canada was the bread and butter of Greyhound’s business as the bus service was lifeline for those rural lives and economies. However from an office in Burlington, Ontario, Greyhound Canada announced its demise taking orders from the head corporate office in Dallas Texas.
Before people start pointing fingers at big business and the private sector for being made of pure greed, remember, crown corporations are in it to make money.
In 2017, the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, another lifeline for those individuals and businesses in rural Saskatchewan ended its run which started in April 1946. It was a popular crown corporation and the ones who used it, used it faithfully and the last customer service survey gave an impressive 95 per cent rating. However, the numbers didn’t look good on a spreadsheet and in 2016-2017, the crown corporation lost just over $34 million. At the time government estimated it would save $85 million over the next five years.
The negative aspect was that it was extremely popular. It was reported that during the last full year of operation STC had 185,000 passengers, amongst 253 communities and went over 4.5 million kilometres. When the government announced it was closing STC operation, there were many protests and anger from those who faithfully used the service.
In Alberta, there was very little in the way of protests.
Either way, there is no connection from coast to coast except for airlines or rail and therein lies the problem. Both are expensive and not easily afforded by many people who used the service.
While financial numbers are important and the numbers didn’t back it up, it is sad that part of Canada’s history; connection and way of life is now gone.
In one sense, yes it served its purpose in Canadian and Western Canadian history, the fact is, those who can’t afford plane tickets now have to find a friend or some other private means to get to their destination or send their package or goods.
Every person for themselves…