Tag Archives: Greyhound bus

Sometimes, I Get Angry, or: Writing a Letter to My MLA

amovitam_Greyhound bus in  Vancouver

I’m angry right now. Angry that as of next week, the only way in and out of the valley in which I live will be by private vehicle or by airplane. That’s right – no more public transportation. No more Greyhound Bus. The bus company is shutting down in all of Western Canada – BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – because it is no longer “sustainable”.

Half the country will be without publicly accessible means of overland travel between smaller communities. I was going to put the word “affordable” in there, too – but there isn’t even any unaffordable means. If you want to go from, say, Merritt, BC, to Hope, BC, and you don’t drive your own car, you can, umm… hitchhike. That’s it. No, there is no train (c’mon, this is Canada. What do you think this country was built on – railways?). Maybe you could hire a taxi for the 120 km… (and pay them for the empty return trip, too. Yeah, that’s why I was going to say “affordable”).

There will never be another trip like the one I took two years ago, going over the mountains in December. That bus was packed full – declining ridership, my foot!

amovitam_Coquihalla sunset

View from the bus window on that last trip back

Usually, when I get angry, I just fuss and fume, grumble at my Man (which he hates), and eventually simmer down and try very hard to forget about it all. But this time, I thought, I have to at least say something. So I wrote a letter. And sent it to my MLA and my MP. And while I was at it, to the provincial premier and deputy premier, the provincial and federal ministers and deputy ministers of transport, and finally Mr Justin Trudeau himself…

I don’t know if it’ll have any effect. I got a whole lot of automated responses saying that somebody would look at my mail, eventually. Whatever. I had my say and I feel somewhat better for it. Still angry, but not quite as powerless. And who knows, maybe it’ll make a difference.

So, just in case you’re wondering, here’s my letter. Yes, I used words like “travesty” and “concomitant” – I guess that’s what happens when a writer gets ticked off. Slay them with verbiage.

Feel free to copy and paste, adjust to your tastes, and fire it off to your own MLA’s office. And to Justin Trudeau, don’t forget him.

But remember to sign it with your own name.

Dear …,

I’m writing to you about the imminent closure of the Greyhound bus lines in Western Canada, coming into effect November 1st.

I think that that closure is a travesty. It will cause serious hardships for the population of rural and small-town BC, and will hit especially hard for people with lower incomes, the elderly, people with illness or disabilities, students, and families where children might want to visit non-custodial parents or other relatives living in smaller towns – in other words, those members of our communities who can least afford an alternative mode of travel. The economic consideration of the Greyhound company being “no longer lucrative to run” led to a decision that is going to hurt the most vulnerable people in our country. In essence, rural and small-town British Columbians have been cut off from each other and from the rest of the province and country – and just in time for winter and the holiday season, when we most need reliable and affordable public transportation…

All that is not even taking into consideration the environmental impact of losing overland mass transportation – each cancelled Greyhound bus means so many more private vehicles on the road or so many more seats booked on an airplane, in other words, far greater fuel consumption and concomitant pollution – or the impact on First Nations communities. The Greyhound closure is in direct opposition to some of the stated goals of this government, and will hurt the people of Western Canada.

The government needs to step in and do something about this, whether it is declaring overland public transportation an essential service, funding (or at least subsidizing) an alternative bus company, or taking over and revitalizing Greyhound.
Please bring this issue to the attention of the government. I would urge you to put your influence behind changing this appalling situation, and going to bat for us as your constituents.

Sincerely,
etc.

amovitam_Coquihalla evening star

The sun sets on an era… The evening star seen through the Greyhound bus window on the top of the mountains, December 2016.

PS: An update, 29.10.2018 (one week later): I received a letter from my provincial MLA’s office with the very welcome news that several private bus companies have been approved to take over some of the bus routes. I don’t have exact details yet, but it appears that we won’t be left in the lurch entirely. I’m very happy about that, and am pleased and impressed with the very personal response I got from my representative’s office.

 

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Dashing Through the Snow

img_20161211_095337933I had some errands to do in the big city. Well, one errand really – getting my German passport renewed, which requires going to the German Consulate in Vancouver – but of course, it’s also the perfect opportunity for a Christmas visit with family & friends.

But this is winter. In Canada. Vancouver, from where I live, is on the other side of a mountain range – nothing on the order of the Rockies, but still, mountains; the highest pass is at 1728 m. And while I quite enjoy that drive in the summer in nice clear weather over dry roads (there’s nothing better than a solitary five-hour drive for concocting novelling plots), I utterly refuse to drive it myself between Thanksgiving and Easter. Because, mountains. In other words, snow.

And boy, was I ever justified in that policy this time. I’d booked my Greyhound bus ticket a couple of weeks ago, when there wasn’t a speck of white to be seen around my house. Then, a few days ago, it started snowing. And it snowed, and snowed…

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So there I was at the bus depot, first thing in the morning as it was just getting light. Greyhound stations are depressing places. In this one, the women’s washroom has one stall with a broken lock, the next one with a broken toilet tank (it won’t fill properly), and a hand dryer that just sighs at you instead of blowing properly, but does so with great regularity about every ten seconds even when you’re not holding your dripping hands under it. So there you are, sitting on the can – “Whoooooh!” – pause – “Whoooooh!” – pause – “Whoooooh!”…

The bus was over an hour late leaving. The driver had got in late the previous night from driving the Vancouver route, and he needed his eight-hour break to get some sleep before he could get behind the wheel again – that’s the law. A law which I’m in utter agreement with, especially in this case. Buddy, I want you to get a good solid kip, before you’re carting me and fifty others across that mountain!

“I drove this road last night,” the driver said as we were pulling out of town, “and there’s nothing good about it. I’m going to take it slow.” You do that, buddy, you do that! “However,” he continued, “you’ll still see me passing a lot of the other vehicles, and that’s simply because this is the best-equipped vehicle on the road.” Very reassuring, that (even if he just said it to keep us calm and not-freaked-out).

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So on we went, through a winter wonderland. Snow, snow and more snow – what you could see; most of the higher-up view was hidden in a thick cloud. Rows of fence posts with their comical little white toques; waterfalls of icicles streaming off rock walls; trees shrouded in drifts of cotton wool. Coming back down the mountain, not-yet-frozen streams still gurgling beside the road, the rocks in their stream bed converted to puffy feather duvets floating amidst the dark water.

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I was profoundly grateful for that bus driver, who ferried us so safely and competently across. In the end, we were only an hour and a half late – his “taking it slow” made for no more than an extra fifteen minutes. An everyday hero, I was thinking. It might sound a bit melodramatic, but still. The lives of fifty people were in his hands that morning, on that snowy mountain road. And then, no doubt, he turned right around and drove another fifty back the other way. I sure hope he got a longer break that time.

Life, the Universe, and a Snowy Drive Over the Mountains. Things to be grateful for.

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