Greyhound will be adding an additional trip from the Lower Mainland to Whistler this winter to help commuters get to the resort in time to catch some fresh tracks.
Starting Nov. 4, the early-morning ride will be departing from Coquitlam at 5 a.m. before arriving in Vancouver at 6 a.m., and in Whistler at 8:20 a.m. The addition means there will soon be five trips a day from the Lower Mainland.
"This allows us to compete with the other carriers that were getting to the hill earlier than we were," explained Peter Hamel, VP for Greyhound's Western Canada region.
The news comes just days after the coach company applied to the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board to cut or amend some of its bus routes throughout the province. Part of that application proposed the removal of a Greyhound stop at the Endowment Lands in Vancouver servicing the University of British Columbia, which would eliminate a route from the campus to Whistler.
"Unfortunately, it didn't really come to fruition as to where we thought it was going to be in generating revenues," Hamel said.
Greyhound has seen a 46-per-cent decline in ridership in B.C. since 2010, which helps explain why the company is looking to cut service to a number of rural areas across B.C. It has also applied to scale back the minimum allowable frequency of all its existing routes to two trips a week, although Hamel explained that that doesn't necessarily mean Greyhound will take that drastic step.
"We're not asking anything more that hasn't already been granted (to other carriers), we'd just like to have a level playing field that allows Greyhound to be flexible and nimble in the future," he said. "But that does not mean that Greyhound is going to adhere to that and change all their runs to that minimum frequency."
If approved, the proposed changes to Greyhound's service levels would go into effect in the New Year.
Some B.C. officials have criticized Greyhound for proposing to slash service to B.C.'s less populated regions.
In a CBC article this week, Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta said rural residents are bearing the brunt of Greyhound's "questionable management decisions."
But Hamel asserted that Greyhound has done "everything it can" to maintain its service levels, and said shifting population trends, travel habits and increased competition have left the company with few options.
"Greyhound's been operating at a deficit since 2004, so along these corridors, this is not a situation of mismanagement but a situation of an actual decline in ridership," he said.
"Travel habits, demographics, absolutely (play a role). But there's also an unfair level of competition in these corridors with either government subsidized entities or other carriers that come in to run overtop of Greyhound that are not bound by the same frequencies or scheduling."
Online ridesharing services in particular are having a significant impact on Greyhound's business, Hamel added.
"This is a major issue for Greyhound and should be a major issue for the government because of the safety. And these are essentially tax-avoidance-type companies that have no benefit to the government," he said, referring in particular to unregulated ridesharing on online platforms such as Craigslist and Kijiji.
Flo Devellennes, the former Whistler resident who founded ridesharing app Pop Rideshare (which, it should be noted, is a registered company that pays corporate taxes), said the reason Greyhound is losing market share comes down to two factors: pricing and convenience.
"The bus companies have been running pretty old business models in the last few years that haven't really innovated in the services they offer while the prices have just kept going up," he said.
"We're believers in providing people with options, and competition has the advantage of giving consumers better options and the inconvenience of targeting outdated companies like Greyhound."