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November 2, 2018 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Western Canada Is Still Struggling to Replace Cancelled Greyhound Service. Here’s what that means for remote First Nations communities who rely on buses for medical travel.

For remote and rural communities and folks to which car ownership is inaccessible, the Greyhound has been a lifeline to the outside world. Without reliable inter-city transportation many people will be forced to hitchhike or forgo travel, whether it is for pleasure, work, or to access services entirely. The long stretches of road between Prince George and communities further north have earned a reputation as a dangerous place for hitchhikers, with limited cell service and a legacy of murdered and missing Indigenous women.

posted by poffin boffin (15 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
If "market forces" are the only forces available to fill the gap, indigenous-owned or otherwise, they will fail. If fares were high enough to keep a service like this safe and profitable, probably nobody could afford them.

This is part of problem that always comes up with public services like transportation. There's sort of a prima facie notion that the thing has to pay for itself. But why? Can you imagine if the sewage system had to be not only self-supporting, but supply a revenue stream to the government? What would your city look like if you had to pay $5 every time you took a shit?

Some things we take a "loss" on because we don't need to calculate the externalized costs, we just know it's a necessary thing to do. A nationalized northern/rural transportation network might fit into that framework.
posted by klanawa at 12:24 PM on November 2, 2018 [41 favorites]


I work in a tourist town where I see people rolling their luggage from the the Greyhound bus stop every morning as I was dropping off my kid to school. They mostly aren't tourists, they are the people moving here to work in hotels and F&B, they are the steady stream in a high churn hospitality industry. We'll soon see a lot less of them.

On the flip side, my wife works in a government mandated job resource centre. A few days from now when the ski resorts open she'll start to see the first batches of people who got fired and lost their staff accommodation. There is no 24-72 hr grace period. She used to be able to provide them with a bus ticket to the nearest big city, maybe she'll be able to again soon, but instead of twice a day now it might be twice a week. There is no homeless shelter here and a hotel room runs $300+ a night. It's below freezing and it's already too cold for people to sleep in their cars. This is going to cause a lot of people at the margins to suffer greatly.
posted by furtive at 12:41 PM on November 2, 2018 [14 favorites]


Quebec, as a province, gave a bus company a monopoly on the profitable route if it would continue to service the unprofitable rural (many but not all indigenous) routes. It has, of course, cancelled half of those but it still has a monopoly on the profitable route, so the 3 hour ride between the two cities costs about as much as a 7 hour ride to Boston. This of course doesn't help anyone -- people in rural areas don't get bus service, everyone else pays excessive costs. There are solutions -- it's why a letter from Toronto to Montreal costs the same as one from Iqaluit to Victoria -- but this sort of semi-subsidy of a commercial enterprise is not a good one.
posted by jeather at 1:24 PM on November 2, 2018 [8 favorites]


as a province, gave a bus company a monopoly on the profitable route if it would continue to service the unprofitable rural (many but not all indigenous) routes. It has, of course, cancelled half of those but it still has a monopoly on the profitable route

This is depressingly common with government granted monopolies or "corporate oligarchies" - like Canada's limited telecom/internet/mobility providers. Sure, they will always line-up to accept government hand-outs to "build infrastructure", yet - 7-10 years later they come back asking for more, but never actually built the original... (Or in the 90's when the regional telecom provider promises to hook-up an entire province with high-speed internet, in exchange for certain government contracts - only to kill that crown corporation and end-up begging for money to do that deployment... guilty parties, you know who you are...)

Privatize profits and socialize the losses.

People have short memories (even with the aid of the internet and search engines). Bail 'em out with zero-interest loans and then simply write those loans off (looking at you Chrysler)...
posted by jkaczor at 1:34 PM on November 2, 2018 [4 favorites]


Indeed. See: Boston and the subway system.

One of many ongoing issues: (non-local) company is the lowest bidder to run the commuter rail trains. Company doesn't do shit. People get pissed off because their trains are not showing up and breaking down. Government says, oops and proceeds to fine company. Company doesn't do shit. Fines pile up. Company announces it will not be bidding again next year. Nothing happens.
posted by Melismata at 1:40 PM on November 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


I wrote about this this summer: http://notesandqueries.ca/web-exclusive/greyhound-by-anthony-easton/
posted by PinkMoose at 1:52 PM on November 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


Could the Federal Govt nationalize a bus service in the North-West? I think the answer is: it's complicated/unprofitable.

The Federal Govt recently spent an awful lot of cash nationalizing a complicated pipeline, but it would be decent if they had some spare change left over for a project like this.
posted by ovvl at 6:00 PM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


For the cost of Trudeaus pipeline, Canada could have taken over all of greyhound operations here AND in the States.

Our priorities are just fucked.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 6:36 PM on November 2, 2018 [6 favorites]


furtive: "On the flip side, my wife works in a government mandated job resource centre. A few days from now when the ski resorts open she'll start to see the first batches of people who got fired and lost their staff accommodation. There is no 24-72 hr grace period."

On the other flip side I was talking to a business manager in one of these sort of semi remote tourist towns a few days ago and while lamenting the ability for new staff to come to work they were happy that the disgruntled could no longer just hop a bus in the middle of the night without informing work.
posted by Mitheral at 7:04 PM on November 2, 2018


On the other flip side I was talking to a business manager in one of these sort of semi remote tourist towns a few days ago and while lamenting the ability for new staff to come to work they were happy that the disgruntled could no longer just hop a bus in the middle of the night without informing work.

One step closer to literal wage slavery, yahoo. /s
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:48 PM on November 2, 2018 [6 favorites]


The distances are immense--Whitehorse to Dawson Creek is 16 or 17 hours nonstop driving--and there were only a handful of passengers on each bus. There was no way to make such routes profitable simply as bus routes selling bus tickets. But seen as part of other systems -- as part of Canada's universal healthcare system alone -- the buses are essential. The national government should just bite the bullet and run those routes (or pay someone else to run them).
posted by pracowity at 4:03 AM on November 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Can you imagine if the sewage system had to be not only self-supporting, but supply a revenue stream to the government?

In many places the sewerage company is self-supporting.
posted by atrazine at 1:55 PM on November 3, 2018


In many places the sewerage company is self-supporting.

... for example? No seriously. I'd like to know how they work, if they do.
posted by klanawa at 1:47 AM on November 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


... for example? No seriously. I'd like to know how they work, if they do.

The largest country I know of where sewerage and wastewater treatment is fully privatised (though economically regulated as a natural monopoly) is Great Britain. (Specifically England as Welsh Water is a company limited by guarantee and has not shareholders and Scottish Water is publically owned). In all cases, the cost of operating the system is recovered from customers through charges based on the size of the household* (large commercial users may be charged based on the nature of the waste they discharge as well).

In many other places, these activities are the responsibility of a municipal authority but as a matter of policy, they are fully funded through specific charges to customers.

A third option (which many American municipalities do) is to fund sewerage and treatment as a local government department from general local taxation.

(*) This can be based on the rateable value of the house and recovered by local government as part of its council tax powers.
posted by atrazine at 5:17 AM on November 4, 2018


I think you missed my point. The English water system is very much the opposite of self-supporting from the perspective of the the people and/or the Crown. It's a fantastic deal for "private equity firms with controversial tax-avoidance strategies," however.

It's fairly clear that England's water system does not, in fact, live up to its promise:
Public opinion polling carried out in 2017 indicated that 83% of the British public favoured renationalisation of all water services... In the same year, research by the University of Greenwich suggested that consumers in England were paying £2.3 billion more every year for their water and sewerage bills than they would if the water companies had remained under state ownership.
Apologies for the derail.
posted by klanawa at 8:28 AM on November 4, 2018


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