Greyhound Canada is moving to cancel its Victoria-Nanaimo route, saying the average passenger load is only nine persons.
The low ridership is part of a wider decline experienced by Greyhound and, specifically, is thought to be part of general shift in travel options between Vancouver Island’s two largest centres.
Peter Hamel, Greyhound Canada’s regional vice-president for Western Canada, said overall ridership in B.C. has declined by about half since 2010.
Greyhound Canada has filed an application with the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board to discontinue service on five routes, including Victoria-Nanaimo.
“The overall ridership in B.C. has seen a decline since 2010 of 46 per cent. On the five corridors we applied for, that decline in ridership is 51 per cent,” Hamel said.
In 2013, the Victoria-Nanaimo route carried an average of 16 passengers, but has dropped below 10, he said.
“The overall picture in B.C. is what drives a difficult decision and this corridor, unfortunately, is no longer viable,” Hamel said.
Hamel said a number of factors could be at play, including urbanization, dropping oil prices and competition from other carriers.
Tofino Bus and IslandLink Express Bus both offer bus service along the route, while B.C. Transit covers parts of it. It’s also becoming more common to share rides advertised through classified sites such as Kijiji, he said.
The company has lobbied for public subsidies from the provincial and federal governments for five years, he said, but has been unsuccessful.
“We continue to have open discussions with the government. We want to be part of a solution here,” Hamel said.
Both passenger service and package transport will continue as usual through the rest of the year.
The company does not expect any changes, which are subject to the board’s decision, to come into effect before early 2018.
“This is business as usual. There is no impact until such a time as a decision is made by the board,” Hamel said.
Victoria resident Bernice Kamano, who is a community outreach advocate for the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness, said she depends on buses to visit family up-Island.
She used to take the E&N passenger rail service, until it was cancelled in 2011.
“I have no other options, I don’t drive, I don’t have a car,” she said.
If other bus options disappeared, too, she said she would be in trouble.
“It would be a complete hardship for me, I would have no other way of getting up-Island.”
Greyhound also applied on Aug. 10 to discontinue service from Prince George to Prince Rupert, Prince George to Valemount, Prince George to Dawson Creek and Dawson Creek to Whitehorse.