Thursday, September 10, 2009

Busing in Manitoba - a thing of the past

This morning I woke up early, intent on catching the bus to Brandon. Weirdly, the bus station relocated from downtown to the airport about a month ago. A little taken back at having to go to the airport to catch a bus (shouldn't not going thousands of miles into the air grant you a little clost-to-home convenience), it turned out that the airport is an easy 20 minute bike ride up Wellington Crescent. A mere 10 minutes of cycling got me to Liquidation World and the Le Chateau outlet store.

There's another more interesting story behind why the bus depot is now at the airport. It's pretty much a last-ditch attempt to increase ridership, something Greyhound in Manitoba has always struggled with (hey, there's only a million and a half people here!). At the depot I learned, via this conversation, that in fact this attempt to increase ridership has failed.

Me, handing over a long-expired student card for the discount fee.

Agent, looks at the card, smirks, and then gives me the discounted price. "Whadda I care? I may as well be nice for my last few weeks at Greyhound?"

Me, all innocence, "Oh, you've got a new job?"

Agent, handing over ticket, "Nope, Greyhound is finished in Manitoba at the end of the month. I've been giving out discounts like crazy." He then offers to waive the $15 fee if I feel like changing my travel time.

Many of the Manitobans I've talked to don't seem concerned about this, saying some other rival upstart company will pick up most of the slack. Call me an alarmist but the Highway of Tears in B.C. has that name precisely because there's no bus service along the route from Jasper to Prince Rupert. Mostly aborginal women have paid the price, dissapearing regularly for decades now. Winnipeg is already knee deep in missing persons cases (The Winnipeg Sun had a spreadsheet of young women who've gone missing on the front page two days ago.) Looking around the bus depot, it's crammed with aborginal people and the elderly.The station is littered with petitions from Greyhound urging people to harass the government and keep the bus going in Manitoba. But I don't think Greyhound deserves it. The whole station is a gong show. There's no bus numbers, signs or PA system to let you know which bus is going where. Passengers swarm every bus drive that hops out of a bus, trying to find out where the bus is heading. I ask about 8 people in the station before I find a luggage loader who knows where my bus is. The girl getting on ahead of me is told that her bus to Saskatoon left 20 minutes ago, probably cause she couldn't find it. Both to and from Brandon, the bus is over an hour late. Even the staff know it's crap, apologizing repeatedly to passengers once we're all on the bus. Clearly, it's not working. But people have to get around, right? This is probably the only time I'll say this, but maybe Canada is too big.

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