The Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is encouraging all regional governments, businesses and other governing bodies to write their objections to Greyhound Canada’s application to reduce service in the Sea to Sky Corridor by next week.
A resolution was adopted at a special SLRD Committee of the Whole meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 10 that reads:
“All municipalities, affected First Nations and Chambers of Commerce in the SLRD, along with residents and businesses negatively impacted by the proposed service reductions, are encouraged to provide written submissions to the Passenger Transportation Board supporting the SLRD resolution.”
Public comments are being accepted on the proposed changes on or before Oct. 17, 2012.
Greyhound Canada wants massive cuts to its services in British Columbia, including its route between Vancouver and Mount Currie, which takes in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton.
A notice was filed on Greyhound's website last week stating that it has made an application to the B.C. Passenger Board to reduce the number of trips its buses make up the Sea to Sky Highway. Only two weeks' notice was required.
Service from Vancouver to Whistler would be cut in half, from a minimum of eight round trips per day or 56 round trips per week to four round trips per day and 28 round trips per week.
Service to Garibaldi-Squamish would likewise be cut from a minimum of eight round trips per day and 56 round trips per week to four round trips per day and 28 round trips per week.
Pemberton's service would fall from a minimum of four round trips per day/28 round trips per week to three round trips per day and 21 round trips per week. To smaller hamlets, like Mount Currie, the cuts are even more severe.
At the Pemberton Valley Utilities & Services Committee meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, SLRD chair and Area C director Susie Gimse, along with Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, said they objected to the cuts and discuss a united response from the region before the deadline.
The directors said they would also seek formal support from BC Transit, the municipalities, and the Lil'wat Nation to request a slowdown of the process so there could be a public hearing, and to reference the impact to local business due to reduced cargo shipping.
Information regarding the Greyhound application has been posted under news and events on the SLRD homepage at http://www.slrd.bc.ca. As well, there are links to the staff report and the pertinent Greyhound application materials, including an edited version of the Greyhound schedules in the Sea to Sky region, noting greater detail about which trips may be eliminated.
Greyhound Canada said in its submission to B.C. Passenger Board that it lost $14.1 million from scheduled passenger operations in B.C in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. "This is unsustainable," it stated in the submission.
The company said its losses were due to higher costs for fuel and maintenance, reduced ridership and "an inflexible provincial regulatory regime that does not allow the Company to respond quickly to market and economic changes and unregulated competition from Province of BC agencies, including BC Transit and the Interior and Northern Health Authorities."
Overall, around 2.2 million operating miles in B.C. would be eliminated — about 25 per cent of its current service, generating savings of about $6.75 million per annum.
In a phone interview, Greyhound Canada's director of operations for Western Canada, Stephen Hutchings, said the cuts were due to low riderships in 16 route corridors.
"The application, as it was submitted, will still preserve service to every community within the province," he said.
He emphasized that the cuts were being made to change the minimum number of buses servicing the route. At busier periods, such as during Whistler's ski season, more buses will be added.
"Absolutely. A minimum frequency would allow us to run the minimum trips required during the low times. During peak times and peak season, Vancouver to Whistler is a good example; we could run multiple times per day if demand warranted it.
Hutchings said advance ticket sales would provide the necessary information and is analyzed "routinely."
On Aug. 31, the passenger board refused Greyhound Canada's request for 18 route cuts (including Vancouver to Mount Currie) and one route elimination through a different process, under the board's Urgent Public Need category. Had they succeeded, Greyhound would have avoided the public process.
In its refusal to support Greyhound's request, the B.C. Passenger Board stated: "'Urgent' is relevant to the public's need, not the applicant's."
Greyhound's current request was submitted on Oct. 3. Public comments will be forwarded to Greyhound Canada, who will have the opportunity to "comment on the comments."
"The board will look at the materials in Greyhound's application, the public's comments and whatever additional comments Greyhound has and can make a decision on each route, each specific proposal and the reasons," a B.C. Passenger Board spokesman said.
The board considers whether public needs are met if service is reduced, whether service levels promote sound economic conditions in the passenger transportation business, and whether the applicant is capable of providing the proposed services.
Send comments to the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Identify the Vancouver to Mount Currie route by quoting application #305-12/Route S1.