It was promising at the start, but bus service from Calgary to Vancouver has all but ground to a halt. And getting information is almost impossible.
At the end of October, Rider Express Transportation announced that upon Greyhound’s demise, the company would provide daily bus service between Calgary and Vancouver.
The daily westbound bus was to make stops in B.C. at Revelstoke at 1 p.m., Salmon Arm at 2:25 at the former Greyhound bus terminal at 50 – 10th St. SW, Kamloops at 3:45, Hope at 5:45, Abbotsford at 6:45, arriving at the Vancouver bus terminal at 8 p.m.
The daily eastbound bus was originally scheduled to leave Salmon Arm at 1:30 p.m. and, with stops in Revelstoke, Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore, was scheduled to arrive in Calgary at 8 p.m.
The reality is very different, something the company says is due to low ridership. But booking a trip is difficult.
Betty MacDonald of Salmon Arm found that out last week when she tried to get information on travelling to Calgary.
The only service between Calgary and Vancouver that Rider Transport is now providing is once a week on Friday. Passengers heading east to Calgary will be getting a very early start as the bus from Vancouver arrives in Salmon Arm at 1:35 a.m. and departs at 1:40.
The Friday service to Vancouver arrives in Salmon Arm at 1:35 p.m. and leaves five minutes later, arriving in Vancouver at 7:15 in the evening.
“I tried to call four times in one morning and thought, this it is ridiculous,” MacDonald says. “I don’t know where to buy a ticket, is anyone there when you check in? Do you just wait till they come?”
MacDonald says she did get through on the phone about a month ago and got the sense the man who answered was at home because she could hear small children in the background. Another call around the same time connected her to a woman who told her the company was looking into the schedules.
“It’s making me really uncomfortable, kind of a fly-by-night feeling,” she says. “If people in small centres can’t book online, you have to phone, but nobody’s taking calls.”
Rider Express did respond quickly to an email from the Observer.
“We changed our service to once a week due to the low ridership. We are hoping to add more service as soon as the ridership will increase,” reads the Dec. 3 email. “We are experiencing high volume of calls, that might be the reason for people not getting through to us. We are also trying to contact government about a funding program, but they are not answering to us.”
But a company recording notes “the person you have called is not accepting messages at this time. Please try your call again later. Thank you. Goodbye.”
As to how would-be travellers can book a ticket, a second email from the company explains: “We are working on adding Salmon Arm for online ticket purchase. It is going to be available in a couple days.”