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BLOG (Ashley MacDonald): better intercity public transit needed

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

I was born and raised in the Greater City of Sudbury. I moved to London, ON in search of employment opportunities, and am now pursuing a full time post-secondary education. Unable to afford my own car, I rely solely on public transportation – Greyhound, VIA Rail and airlines. Since I’ve moved to south western Ontario, I’ve been using Greyhound’s services regularly to visit the city I once called home. I’m writing to you today to see how we might improve the sorry state of intercity public transit that is Greyhound from the Greater City of Sudbury.

To begin, I’d like to address what seems to be the main reason for the Greyhound cutback that took place in 2015. In many news articles, Greyhound blames a reduction in ridership for the cutbacks in their services offered. As a student currently studying business, it’s not hard for me to understand supply and demand as well as their desire to cut unneeded costs. Every time I’ve taken a Greyhound bus to and from Sudbury in the past few years – no matter the day of the week – the bus has been either ¾ full or completely full. While I understand that there is no profit to be had if Greyhound is running more than one bus a day, my issue remains with the time of day Greyhound has chosen to leave Sudbury, and how inconvenient it is for Sudbury residents and tourists. I was under the impression that Greyhound was a means for the population without vehicles to move between cities. If this were the case, why do they insist on such cumbersome service hours?

Recently my mother Diane and I discussed her taking a Greyhound from Sudbury to London the week before Christmas, to accompany me on my trip back to Sudbury. Thrilled at the idea, the two of us began looking at options for her travel south. Her only option on the day she wanted to leave would be to take the midnight bus. This isn’t only inconvenient, but impractical as well – and I’ll tell you why. How is my mother – a single female traveler – expected to get from Hanmer to Sudbury for the midnight bus? While she does own a vehicle, she does not feel comfortable driving such long distances by herself and does not wish to leave her vehicle parked downtown. My father is unavailable to drive her in to Sudbury so late as night due to the fact that he works early the next morning, and no one else is available to bring her to the station. A taxi from Hanmer to Sudbury is about $75 one way not including tip, so that’s out of the question. It’s irresponsible, and quite frankly a bit insulting, how little regard Greyhound has for the population in northern Ontario. If we must have only one bus leaving Sudbury on weekdays, I would suggest a departure time that makes more sense – such as early morning between seven and nine am.

The current Greyhound schedule has a bus leaving Sudbury at 12:40AM Monday to Thursday and Saturday, which means it would arrive downtown Toronto at 5:40AM. It’s important that we consider travelers who may be easy targets to violence or theft: the elderly, children, mothers traveling with their babies, single female travelers, and the list goes on. The sun currently rises just before 8AM, and for the sake of saving on costs and time, Greyhound would rather force their passengers to wait at the downtown Toronto terminal in the dark hours of the morning. I’ve spent many hours at the Bay St terminal, both at night and during the day, and I know – as well as any other Greyhound traveler does – that the quality of individuals who hang around that terminal is less than ideal. I for one, would not be comfortable with my own mother waiting the two-hour layover downtown Toronto at such a time.

The previously mentioned issues are a reality for not only myself and my mother, but many northern Ontario residents as well. For my own case, and that of my mother, I’ve only explored the Greyhound busses leaving from Sudbury to Toronto. Concerns have been raised in the sense that, patients who need to leave the city for doctor appointments are left high and dry if they rely on the Greyhound to get to and from those appointments. Coming from London to Sudbury isn’t that difficult, there are a decent amount of bus options throughout the week. As a southern Ontario citizen looking into this situation, it appears that all regard for the northern Ontario community has gone out the window. The lack of selection with Greyhound when leaving the city inconveniences people to the point that they may opt out of going to Sudbury at all. Companies like Greyhound form an oligopoly on the intercity transportation market in northern Ontario communities. If they don’t cater to commuters and listen to their needs, cities like Sudbury will suffer in terms of tourism as well as economic growth. Think of all the students who currently live in Sudbury to attend post-secondary institutions. When they wish to leave the city to see their families, their options are extremely limited. This is surely to deter prospective students and their consideration of post-secondary institution choices in the city of Sudbury.

My next objection to the services offered by Greyhound is how conveniently their rates skyrocket during Christmas as well as other holidays. They’re exploiting their position in the market in order to gouge the consumers they so unfairly disregard. I find it funny that Greyhound sees charging extra fees as appropriate when they’re offering me a service that I disagree with. If they offered increased service hours during this time, I wouldn’t complain about a price hike. The problem here is that they offer nothing above the normal service given throughout the year. They raise their prices during the holidays because they know that their consumers will be forced to pay the extra amount if they want to see their family. The choice between paying my bills and seeing my family shouldn’t be one that I should have to make.

I want to know if there is anything that we can do to strongly encourage Greyhound to change the way they operate out of Sudbury. It’s unfortunate that such a large company is allowed to take advantage of consumers who are in no position to fight back. I want to sincerely thank you for taking the time to read through this complaint of sorts, and look forward to seeing the kind of change I know we can initiate.

 

Kind regards,

Ashley MacDonald

Sent to MP France Gélinas and local media


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