The discontinuation of Greyhound Canada bus services in Western Canada will be a huge issue for vulnerable women wanting to access the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter.
Routes to Revelstoke and the B.C. province as a whole will be discontinued by October 31 — right before the busy winter travel period. Greyhound is also ending services in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The sole surviving route is Vancouver to Seattle. Greyhound has blamed escalating costs and declining numbers for the decision.
The loss of this bus service in regional areas will impact society’s most vulnerable. Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Society’s executive director Lynn Loeppky notes that the only options left for women fleeing abuse and coming to the shelter will be hitchhiking or ride sharing.
“I think in terms of numbers, women will still find a way here, but I can’t imagine it will be safe,” Loeppky said. “I’m concerned for people on low income without any form of transportation other than the Greyhound.”
Greyhound is considered a safe service as customers are recorded by name and the service has a relationship with police. It is also a cheaper option than flying. This news has raised concerns about the increased risk for Indigenous women living in isolated areas. For instance the notorious stretch of B.C. highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert is known as the Highway of Tears where many Indigenous women have gone missing after hitchhiking due to a lack of public transportation.
Loeppky said bus transport is an essential service for the majority of women at the shelter. After staying at the shelter, some women decide to move back to their hometowns. Women also come to the Revelstoke shelter when the big city shelters are full. There is also the need to attend out-of-town appointments that don’t align with the local medical bus schedule.
“I think the loss of this service is going to have a huge impact,” Loeppky said.
Greyhound Canada operates on a commercial basis with no support from the federal government and the cancellation is expected to impact roughly two million consumers. Loeppky has called on the federal and provincial governments to urgently work on a solution.
In a joint release, the BC Society of Transition Houses, Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan and Manitoba Association of Women’s Shelters have also weighed in on the issue, stating the cancellation will put women and their children who are fleeing violence at a greater risk.
“As provincial associations for domestic violence services, we regard affordable travel options as essential services that should be supported with public revenue in order to protect the safety of those living in rural and remote areas,” the release states.