Regional bus company Greyhound Lines Inc. has permanently cancelled the last of its Canadian routes, blaming a lack of government aid, deregulation of the industry and competition from Via Rail.
The withdrawal from the Canadian market follows Greyhound’s 2018 decision to end bus service in Western Canada and Northern Ontario. The routes cancelled this week had been suspended over the past year amid stay-at-home orders and travel quarantines imposed because of the pandemic.
“Our service is reliant on the farebox,” Greyhound said in a statement. “We are not able to sustain operations with a significant reduction in ridership and the corresponding revenue loss.”
More than 400 workers – including 300 union members – will lose their jobs as a result of Greyhound’s pullout, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) said.
Barry Prentice, a transportation professor at the University of Manitoba, said national bus services in a country as large as Canada struggle because of factors such as the prevalence of car ownership and the low cost of a plane ticket. “That’s really hit the bus system,” Prof. Prentice said from Winnipeg.
The intercity bus industry is provincially regulated and, in some regions, has seen a gradual removal of exclusive operating rights. This has created openings for new players, Prof. Prentice said.
He said some small bus companies remain viable, pointing to independent coach lines that serve small communities from such cities as Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. “The notion of a coast-to-coast bus system – maybe that’s a day that has passed, at least for the moment,” he said.
John Costa, the international president of the ATU, blamed a lack of financial aid from the federal and Ontario governments for the cuts.
“They not only failed to provide COVID-19 relief for this hard-hit industry but ignored calls for many years for critical federal funding of Greyhound Canada and the entire struggling intercity bus industry and to stop the ruinous deregulation of intercity bus lines,” Mr. Costa said. “This is devastating news for the thousands of Canadians, especially those from Indigenous and First Nations communities, who have relied on Greyhound for transportation. Seniors won’t be able to visit their families, students won’t be able to get to school, and many others will be left stranded.”
Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement that he is “disappointed” by the company’s decision. “We know that many Canadians depend on this service. We will work with our provincial partners to explore options to address this gap and provide Canadians with safe, reliable and affordable transportation across the country,” he said.
Federal NDP transport critic Taylor Bachrach said the loss of Greyhound service will hit the most marginalized, including First Nations people and seniors.
“The loss of all remaining Greyhound bus routes leaves many communities without affordable, safe passenger transportation,” Mr. Bachrach said. Without government action, rural Canadians will be increasingly cut off from jobs, health care and education, worsening the growing divide in rural and Northern Canada.”
Greyhound said the cancelled routes are Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal, Toronto-London-Windsor, Sudbury-Ottawa/Toronto, Toronto-Kitchener/Guelph/Cambridge, Toronto-Niagara Falls and Ottawa-Kingston.
Greyhound said that when the Canada-U.S. border restrictions are lifted it will resume service from Toronto to New York and Buffalo; Montreal to New York and Boston; and Vancouver to Seattle.
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