Friday, February 23, 2018

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, Mayor Lee Brain weigh in on PTB's Greyhound decision

More Northwest reaction is coming in on the prospect of
the end of Greyhound Service along Highway 16

The reaction to the Passenger Transportation Board decision on Greyhound Service from area politicians continues to roll out, as the prospect of losing the only direct road connection between Prince Rupert and Prince George begins to settle in across the region.

Yesterday we took note of the first comments from MLA Jennifer Rice and MP Nathan Cullen towards the decision, with both expressing their disappointment at the decision of the Passenger Transportation Board.

Today we review the notes from a  couple of other regional leaders who are also sharing their thoughts on the Greyhound announcement and what may come next.

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross first raised the theme on Wednesday in the Legislature, asking questions of Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena, as to how the NDP government had allowed the situation to come to the point of cancellation.

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross raised the issue of the cancellation of
Greyhound service in Northern British Columbia

The exchange between MLA and Minister went as follows:

Mr. Ross: For years, the NDP advocated for bus services in the north, particularly Highway 16. Today we learned Greyhound has been given permission to stop providing service in northern B.C. and rural B.C. My question is: how is it possible that the minister has allowed this service to collapse?

Minister Trevena: I think both sides of this House recognize how unfortunate it is that the Greyhound is pulling out. The Passenger Transportation Board, which is an independent tribunal, studied this. They actually had hearings about it at my instigation. I got in touch with them during the fall and winter. They actually had further hearings. I've been in touch with members of the opposition, including the member himself. They sat down in my office. We've talked about the problems that we might face. I will be continuing to work with them. The member for Prince George–Valemount is well aware of this. In fact, I sent her a note just before we started this session. I'm happy to sit down with them. I'll be sitting down with mayors, elected officials, First Nations across the communities affected to try to find a solution.

Mr. Ross: The information is correct. We did sit down, but I thought the common goal was to keep the service in northern British Columbia because the bus service is vital for people in the north, especially for First Nation communities. The service reduction increases public safety concerns, especially where transportation options are limited and the winters are very harsh. To the Minister of Transportation, what will you do to bring this service back?

Minister Trevena: As the member well knows, I agree with him. We are extraordinarily worried about access for vulnerable people, access for First Nations. It's a very a harsh climate. I think that the member knows that we need to find a solution, and I will sit down with him.

The Greyhound is an independent business. They wanted to pull out. They applied to the Passenger Transportation Board, an independent tribunal, to withdraw the service. The Passenger Transportation Board took evidence from Greyhound, from the communities. At my instigation, they went out and talked to communities. 

They decided to make that ruling Greyhound will be pulling out. We will be working with communities, with the members opposite, if they choose to work with us. I will be very happy to sit down and continue to work with them to try and find solutions because, like the members opposite, we know we cannot leave people stranded in the north.

You can review the Video from the Wednesday session of the House here, Mr. Ross makes his inquiries of the Transportation Minister at the 2:21 PM mark.

More items related to Mr. Ross's work in Victoria can be reviewed here.

Back in the Northwest, for his first commentary on the theme, Mayor Lee Brain who frequently weighs in on many issues through his Social media streams, left those portals empty of discussion on the issue, and instead offered up  a few short comments to the local media in Prince Rupert.

Mayor Brain sees opportunity in Greyhound withdrawal
Mayor Brain on Greyhound Bus Decision

While making note of his disappointment in the decision, Mr. Brain also suggested that the departure of Greyhound may make for an opportunity for some other organization to take on the task of transportation along Highway 16.

As part of his review of the new reality for travel across the region, Mr. Brain offered up a scenario where a First Nation group may wish to take over the long distance run between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

However, not mentioned by the Mayor as part  of his synopsis on travel issues on the North Coast, was a look at the past decision by the City of Prince Rupert in December of 2016, which had chosen not to take part in the Highway 16 Transportation plan hosted by the provincial government.

At that time  the City and its partners on the North Coast expressed their preference  to stay with other options for transportation between Prince Rupert and Terrace.

One of those transportation projects is hosted by the North Coast Transition Society, which makes arrangements for those that need emergency travel along the Highway 16 corridor, though one of the transportation services that they  make use of, is the Greyhound route that will be terminated as of June 1st.

When it comes to the Northwest transit option provided by BC Transit, the City of Prince Rupert is the only major community along the Highway that is not taking part in the Highway 16 shuttle program hosted by the Province, that program is a shared cost venture between the province and area municipalities across the Highway 16 corridor.

The absence of Prince Rupert in the program was noted by regional officials back in October of 2017 when the service between Terrace and the Hazeltons was introduced.

During that Terrace service launch, it was observed that of the many communities that took part in the Highway 16 Action plan community engagement sessions on transportation in 2016, Prince Rupert had delivered the highest turnout, reflecting strong interest in the proposals. 

While they celebrated the latest link in the Highway shuttle program last fall, participants reinforced the theme that the City of Prince Rupert and the North Coast region were always welcome to join the collective goal of regional transportation.

Mr. Brain may get an opportunity to discuss transportation issues in the near future, as Minister Trevena has indicated plans to reach out to community leaders to examine the issue further.

Though judging by the Mayor's comments of Thursday, the City doesn't seem ready just yet to sign up for the current BC Transit model.

You can review more notes on Highway 16 Transportation issues from our archive page.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Mayor Brain probably won't be able to give the Hwy 16 Transit issue his full attention until the NAFTA negotiations and his diplomatic missions to Alaska are finished.