Penticton bus service about to be flattened

Greyhound Canada is set to cut two afternoon departures from Penticton to Kelowna as part of its broader plan to trim 15 routes across the province.

The B.C. Passenger Transportation Board this week approved the plan following an application from Greyhound, which said it had to start cutting its losses or consider stopping service in the province.

Communities throughout the region will be affected and some, like Rock Creek, will lose service altogether:

In its decision, the transportation board noted that Greyhound reported it lost $14.1 million on its B.C. passenger operations during the 2011-12 fiscal year, due partly to a loss of customers to subsidized transit provided by regional health authorities to patients.

The board approved the Okanagan-area cuts due to numbers supplied by the company that demonstrated low ridership, an issue it found was backed up by a lack of public comment on the cuts.

Dan Ashton, who chairs the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, said his group took the time last fall to register its “displeasure” with the proposed reductions.

“In many of our communities, (Greyhound) is the only source of transport for people that don’t have vehicles,” he noted.

Ashton said the board is working on a regional transit plan to connect Summerland, Okanagan Falls and Penticton, but added that Greyhound’s pull-back should open the door for smaller operators to fill the void.

“In my opinion, there’s probably an opportunity between Princeton, Keremeos and Penticton and points in between for that type of private operator. And I hope somebody does look at it,” he said.

Grant Odsen, a regional manager for Greyhound, acknowledged the company’s service reductions may invite new rivals, but he noted that possibility has always existed.

“We happen to be the only operator in a lot of areas, but it’s not because anybody else is being kept out,” he said.

“In terms of competition, all it required was somebody to make a decision that they wanted to get into the business, make an application to the board to get a licence to do so, and off they go.”

Odsen said the company expects to post its new schedules next week and must then wait at least two weeks before implementing the changes. He doesn’t expect any job losses as a result of the cuts.

“We’re short of drivers right now and as these reductions come along, that will just help to fill some of the voids we have,” Odsen said.

He added that Greyhound intends to launch its Express service this spring on its Kelowna-Vancouver route. Express routes, already in place in Alberta and Ontario, feature upgraded coaches with more leg room, Wi-Fi and 120-volt outlets.

“But that’s not the kind of service that can be provided province-wide in all of the far-flung areas. It’s the kind of service that’s going to require ridership density to support it,” Odsen said.

The proposed reductions in this region include:

* Minimum frequency on the Penticton-Kelowna route will be cut from four trips per day to two in each direction. The 2:40 p.m and 5 p.m. departures from Penticton, and the 10:15 a.m. and 3:15 a.m. departures from Kelowna, are targeted for elimination.

*Minimum frequency on the Vancouver-Rock Creek route will be reduced to one daily trip in each direction between Vancouver and Penticton, plus one daily trip in each direction between Penticton and Osoyoos. Service beyond Osoyoos to Bridesville and Rock Creek will be completely eliminated. The 10 a.m. southbound departure from Penticton is targeted for elimination.

*Minimum frequency on the Kelowna-Vancouver route will drop from three trips daily in each direction to two. The 3 p.m. departure from Kelowna is proposed for elimination.



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