Cuts to Greyhound Canada's service between Whistler and Pemberton spells bad news for late-night Spud Valley commuters who rely on the route.
Last week, Greyhound confirmed that it would be reducing its Pemberton-Whistler schedule due to low ridership and competition from other transportation providers.
Under the new schedule, as of Nov. 5 there will only be three daily trips from Whistler Village to Pemberton: an 11:15 a.m., 1:45 p.m., and 5:15 p.m. bus. The company has also proposed to discontinue its only daily trip to Mount Currie, pending approval from the BC Passenger Transportation Board.
In a September interview, Greyhound's Western Canada VP Peter Hamel stressed the company has been doing "everything it can" to maintain service levels, but that a 46-per-cent decline in ridership since 2010 has taken a toll.
"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."
Greyhound's cuts came on the heels of a BC Transit proposal to add two daily roundtrips between Whistler and Pemberton to its existing schedule — but those aren't expected to be in place until 2019 after a governance and funding model is cemented with provincial and regional governments.
"It was definitely revealed to us there is a high potential for ridership along the corridor and a demand for this service to be implemented," said BC Transit's Lisa Trotter, referencing the results of the recently released Sea to Sky Corridor Regional Transit Study, which analyzed ridership demand through two rounds of public engagement and a market study analysis.
Greyhound's cuts, for the time being, mean that Pemberton commuters who work or attend evening programs in Whistler no longer have a late-night bus back home to count on.
"A lot of people in Pemberton work afternoons in Whistler and rely on the 10:30 p.m. bus to get home. It's a pretty big deal," said Pemberton resident Lou McAllister, who is gathering signatures from concerned residents to restore the service.
"I may have to quit my job. I've had about three or four other people on the bus say the same thing."While acknowledging the financial burden on Greyhound to maintain a trip that averaged only 5.7 riders a night, according to the company's figures, McAllister worries what the service cuts could mean for the long-term well being of the community.
"A lot of Pemberton teenagers use that service on occasion to get to and from their programs in (Whistler). There's not much to do in Pemberton, so they go to the cinema, for example, and then come back on that bus," she explained. "Not to mention the people who actually stick around in Whistler to have an après or drinks after work. If they decide to do that, there's no way for them to get home afterwards either, which means there's going to be more people plastered on the road."
McAllister said she intends to bring up her concerns with the Village of Pemberton in the hopes the local government will lobby Greyhound to reconsider. She's also exploring hosting a community forum where residents could discuss establishing an informal carpooling service to the resort.
The full results of BC Transit's Sea to Sky Corridor Regional Transit Study can be viewed at bctransit.com/seatosky.