A senior on a fixed income says she will be spending Christmas alone due to cancellation of Greyhound bus services.
“I have no way of getting to Revelstoke,” says Caroline Hurlbert, 76.
While Caroline lives in Medicine Hat, Alberta, her only son lives in Revelstoke.
“I depend on Greyhound to visit family,” says Hurlbert. She gave up her driving license four years ago and no longer can afford a vehicle.
“This is a reality for seniors with a fixed income.”
Greyhound Canada announced in July that it would be ending its bus and freight services in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Only one route will still available in B.C. and that’s Vancouver to Seattle. The changes will take effect at the end of this month.
The company says the move was necessary due to declining ridership. Greyhound has been operating in the province since 1929, but says ridership has dropped 46 per cent since 2010.
“It’s not a good thing Greyhound will no longer come to Revelstoke,” says Hurlbert’s son, Ross.
Ross works in the meat department at Southside Market. He would go to Alberta for Christmas, but says his mother won’t let him.
“She worries about me driving on that highway.”
According to ICBC data, there were more than 64,000 vehicle crashes in B.C. that caused injuries or deaths in 2016, of which 6,900 were in Revelstoke, Golden, Kelowna, Kamloops and Nelson areas.
In the last month there have been 30 motor vehicle collisions in the Revelstoke area, said an Oct. 4 RCMP release.
While Caroline couldn’t travel to Revelstoke last Christmas due to health problems, the prior three holidays to that she has. She used to spend Christmas with her other son in Medicine Hat, but he died in 2014. Her first husband died in 1981 and Caroline says she raised her children alone. Though she remarried, her second husband died in 2010.
“I’m alone,” says Caroline.
And not only does her son live in Revelstoke, but the roommates who more-or-less “adopted” him when he moved in Revelstoke 10 years ago are like a great big family.
“There’s so much love here,” Ross said. “And Greyhound took that away.”
Ideally, Caroline says she would like to live in Revelstoke, but cannot afford it. The city has become too expensive.
There are other options that Caroline could use to get to Revelstoke, but they aren’t cheap. She could take a shuttle from Medicine Hat to Calgary Airport and fly to Kelowna, but that costs roughly $750.
“I can’t afford that,” says Caroline.
Last time, she paid $265 to take Greyhound.
The impacts of Greyhound leaving Revelstoke go far beyond the mother and son.
“This cancellation will mostly effect low income people,” says Cathy Girling at Community Connections in Revelstoke. She works with the local homeless outreach program.
Although there is no emergency homeless shelter in Revelstoke, Girling says they could put homeless individuals on a Greyhound and send them to a shelter in Salmon Arms or Vernon.
“We can no longer do that. And there currently is no Plan B,” says Girling.
“This is a big concern.”
Greyhound is also important for the Revelstoke Woman’s Shelter. The shelter provides a 30 day stay for women and their children fleeing abuse. Sometimes they’re from Revelstoke, sometimes they aren’t.
“For example, we may have a lady from Calgary fleeing to family in Vancouver. Revelstoke is the layover and the first transition house from Calgary. She may have arrived here on Greyhound,” says Lynne Loeppky executive director of the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter.
Loeppky worries women will get stranded.
“If women get here, how will they move on?”
In the past, the women’s shelter would provide a bus ticket. If the women weren’t local, the bus was a way to get home, somewhere safe, or a chance to escape abuse in Revelstoke.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do now,” says Loeppky.
There are two other buses that travel west to Kelowna and Kamloops from Revelstoke. One is a health connections bus, which leaves on Tues. and Wed. and is primarily for non-emergency medical appointments.
If there is space on the 17-person bus, anyone can get a ride. It’s $5 and subsidized by the City of Revelstoke, B.C. Transport, and Interior Health. However, there’s no room for luggage. Just whatever can fit on your lap. For more information call R Taxi at 250-837-4000.
The other option is the Everything Revelstoke Shuttle. Currently they charge $150 one-way per adult from Revelstoke to the Kelowna Airport. By comparison, if booked a few weeks in advance a Greyhound ticket to Kelowna costs less than $30.
The Revelstoke Review couldn’t find any transportation options heading east to Calgary. Or at least safe and reliable ones.
“My fear is people will hitch hike,” says Loeppky
Not only can hitch hiking be dangerous, it’s also illegal.
According to the Motor Vehicle Act, Section 182 (3), “A person must not be on a roadway to solicit a ride” and “except for a person who solicits a ride in an emergency situation, a person who contravenes this section commits an offence.”
Yet, other transportation options are appearing in B.C. Slowly.
The province started a northern B.C route between Prince Rupert, Prince George, Valemount, Dawson Creek, and Fort St. John. One-way fares vary between $34 to $45.
Another B.C. bus company, named Silver City Stagelines is planning to start a service between Nelson and Kelowna.
However, many towns across western Canada will be left isolated and cut-off.
“I don’t understand why our federal government isn’t doing anything,” says Caroline.
“People like me will be screwed.”