Greyhound’s Canadian Operations the Latest COVID Casualty

In a big hit to interregional transit in Ontario and Quebec on Thursday, Greyhound announced that they were ceasing all Canadian operations effective immediately. The private bus operator is saying that they can’t afford to continue with what remains of their Canadian service, completing a rollback that began in western Canada over two years ago, and permanently affecting transit service to and from Guelph.

In a release posted to their website, Greyhound says that they’ve seen a 95 per cent drop in operations because of the pandemic in Canada, and that despite their “significant outreach” to the Federal and Provincial governments for help, they have not received any promise of support. The announcement comes exactly one-year to the day that Greyhound announced they were “temporarily” suspending service because of low ridership due to the pandemic.

“We deeply regret the impact this has on our staff and our customers, as well as the communities we have had the privilege of serving for many years,” said Greyhound Canada’s senior vice-president Stuart Kendrick in a statement. “A full year without revenue has unfortunately made it impossible to continue operations. Thank you to our dedicated staff for their commitment and service, and to our customers for choosing Greyhound Canada during better times.”

Such platitudes are empty for the 400 people who are now out of a job because of Greyhound’s sudden closure, and for the thousands of people that depend on Greyhound’s services in better times. John Costa, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union International, said in a statement that impacts of this shutdown will be immediate and wide-reaching.

“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,” Costa said. “For many years, Greyhound Canada has been the only form of transportation to connect people living in small towns across Canada with larger cities to provide opportunities for jobs, access to health care and other critical services.”

Both Costa and Kendrick agree though that the governments of Canada have been a big let down in terms of the lack of assistance offered.

“In the U.S., we were able to secure critical relief funding for the motor coach industry that has been devastated by the pandemic and we continue to push for more,” Costa added. “The Trudeau government and the Progressive Conservative Party MPPs are to blame. 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.”

For Guelph, the end of Greyhound service means two vital transit routes are cut off. Greyhound provided the only direct bus service from downtown Toronto to downtown Guelph, as well as the only direct bus service between Guelph and Kitchener. GO Transit does provide service between Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo, but it requires a one-hour layover in Aberfoyle. The GO bus from Guelph to Toronto, meanwhile, goes along Highway #7 to Brampton and stops at Pearson Airport before heading into the city.

“I am deeply concerned with the news that Greyhound Canada is shutting down all bus service permanently,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement. “Just last week, I sent a letter to Ministers MacLeod and Mulroney urging funding to aid private coach companies in their recovery from the pandemic.”

In November 2017, Greyhound scaled back service to Guelph with fewer trips to and from Toronto and Kitchener. The next fall, Greyhound ceased service to northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, leaving 300 stops without any regional public transportation service at all. For years, politicians and transit activists have been making the point that Ontario needs better regional transit options, and Schreiner hopes that Greyhound’s closure might finally make the point.

Instead of pumping billions of dollars into environmentally destructive projects like Highway 413, [Premier Doug] Ford should focus on making interregional transit accessible to all Ontarians, especially those in underserved communities like the North,” Schreiner added. “Ontario’s transit system is outdated and underfunded and is unaffordable and inaccessible to many. And while options like Greyhound were formerly filling the gaps in Ontario’s public transit, it’s now on Ford to step up and make interregional transit a reality.”

Greyhound will continue with its cross border operations, ferrying passengers from Toronto to New York and Buffalo, from Montreal to New York and Boston, and from Vancouver to Seattle.

Photo Credit: Picture of the old Greyhound Bus Terminal at the corner of Macdonell and Carden Streets in downtown Guelph courtesy of Wikicommons.

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