Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/11/2019 (206 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
One year ago Wednesday, Greyhound bus service left Brandon, along with nearly all of Western Canada.
Now, the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents Brandon Transit drivers locally, is calling on the federal government to support public intercity transit.
"We need intercity transit, we need public transit. Fundamentally, transit is a human right. It encompasses things like the climate change crisis and moving to reducing fossil fuel emissions. We need all levels (of government) to look at this with a real investment," said the union’s national president, John DiNino. He made the announcement while standing outside Brandon’s former Greyhound bus terminal on Sixth Street.
The union launched a nationwide campaign after events in both Brandon and Winnipeg to pressure the federal government to take action on intercity transit. Manitoba is one of the provinces hardest hit by Greyhound’s departure, DiNino said.
Some private companies, like Brandon Bus Lines and Maple Bus Lines, have attempted to fill the transit hole left by Greyhound. Maple Bus Lines president Lori Mann told The Brandon Sun in September the company was planning to start a route between Winnipeg and Brandon in time for the Christmas holidays. The company also has plans to start service to other Westman communities. Mann could not be reached for an update on Thursday.
Despite these attempts to fill the gap, DiNino said the country needs something more "integrated."
"Transit should not be for profit. It’s about moving Canadians across this country, moving Canadians to and from their homes to work, to school to medical appointments," he said.
Private companies attempting to fill the need is good, he said, but the government should fund something publicly owned and operated.
"You can’t just have a patchwork of private consortiums taking on profitable routes just for the profit. If you’re going to have an integrated system, the profitable routes are going to subsidize the unprofitable routes so everybody has a fair chance at transit across this country," DiNino said.
The ATU sponsored Winnipeg-based producer Emily Leedham to create an audio documentary called "Still Waiting for the Bus: The Unnatural Death of Prairie Intercity Transit." While making the documentary, she said spoke to many people about the importance of affordable intercity transit, including for people fleeing domestic violence and for Indigenous women and girls.
"A lot of people have been forced to get cars even though they can’t afford cars or are forced to drive even though they don’t feel comfortable driving," she said. "A lot of these riders spoke about the comfort and safety of riding in a bus, knowing there is a trained, professional (driver) who can get them to there destination safely."
Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres), who sits on Brandon City Council’s poverty committee, echoed Leedham, saying she’s sad to see the service not in Brandon anymore. Many vulnerable people in the city now don’t have reliable access to transit between Manitoba and other western communities.
"(Greyhound) was affordable, and allowed them to visit family and friends, as well as accessing medical services in larger centres, such as Winnipeg," she said over email.
"It has created isolation for those people, and is disturbing to lose this in a growing city of our size. My hope is that in the future this important service will be restored by either the private or public sector. There is definitely still a need."
» Twitter: @DrewMay_