In a bigger town, few would have even noticed. In times past, people may have commented over a cup of coffee, but little else. Maybe their friends would have agreed; maybe they’d dismiss it as parochial griping. And if someone wanted to do something about it, they’d go raise their concerns in person. But nowadays, people can go online and lash out anonymously and wash their hands of it.
Revelstoke Greyhound agent Matt Singh has felt the sting. Late last year he moved the Greyhound station from the old location near Denny’s Restaurant up the hill next to his complex of businesses including the Super-Save Gas and the Frontier Restaurant and Motel.
He says it was a drastic improvement. He leased the old building and it was falling apart. There were leaks, water contamination issues and the furnace had a hole in it. (I rode my bicycle down there this summer when the fire department responded to a furnace fire.) The employees were complaining of health issues. The lease was up and it was time to move, says Singh.
So he created a new office in the new Super Save Gas convenience store. He’s upped his weekly office hours from 49 to 126, meaning customers can wait inside during those hours or pick up parcels. The lighting is better. There are security cameras inside and out. He’s converted a motel room into a drivers’ lounge where they can relax and nap between shifts or during road closures. He’s even provided a vehicle for the drivers.
But critics noticed the slightly longer distance from town, and ripped into Singh and the change. They weren’t informed, they complained – but Singh said he advertised on the radio and put up posters.
It was too far away from town. Singh notes about a hundred or so metres more to drive. It’s an extra walk up the hill, but there is a road parallel to the Trans-Canada that runs past the Subway Restaurant.
Most of all, those that spoke against him publicly didn’t bother to ask him. “I just saw something in the [Revelstoke] Current – people writing in and complaining,” he said, noting the main issue was the added distance. “There were some more viscous attacks and I don’t really know where they were coming from. They weren’t really specific in why they were attacking me. I feel pretty hurt by the whole thing.” Singh said he was also attacked on the Stoke List, an online bulletin board.
The complaints even went to city council, who referred the issue to relevant city committees at their Jan. 10 meeting. They’ll explore issues such as transit and access.
Singh underscores he was trying to improve the service and keep it and the jobs in Revelstoke. “There’s no guarantee of having a Greyhound station in Revelstoke,” Singh says. He’s an agent, meaning he makes money from ticket sales commissions and a cut of freight handling. Many towns our size have no station, and Revelstoke is one of the smallest towns in B.C. to have a proper standalone station with parcel service, he says. The new location ensures long-term viability. He notes that stations in Canmore and Maple Ridge have closed down.
The stop is next to his convenience store and restaurant, something Singh feels will help passengers. Before, many would fan out across the highway to McDonald’s and wouldn’t make it back before the bus departed. It was a “horrible” experience. “It happened on a regular basis here,” he said. Now the drivers can round up the passengers more easily. The stopovers are very short; many passengers don’t even get off, while others get out for a stretch and a toilet break.
Jen Biddinger is the media spokesperson for Greyhound. I spoke with her from office in Cincinnati, Ohio. She’s adamant the new location is better suited for riders. “We hope that they are pleased with the added amenities the new location offers,” she says. “The site offers more amenities to passengers. There are also better hours of operation.”
What about the idea that the new location is closer to Singh’s other business, and he could stand to benefit? Biddinger restates the answer above, underscoring that the lease at the old location was up, and the new location is better. And if Greyhound didn’t approve, it wouldn’t be there. “We (Greyhound) control where we put the stops,” Biddinger says – it’s not up to the local agent to decide.
In some jurisdictions, Greyhound has contracts with government to provide transit service, but Biddinger says that’s not the case in B.C.