When you live in the hustle and bustle of big city life with access to hospitals, doctors, groceries and government agencies, it can be easy to take for granted the vital role safe and reliable transportation plays in our everyday lives. As city dwellers we have options, we can jump on the train to get to work, take a bus to access a hospital or just drive to where we need to go.
However, for some who live in rural or remote communities, their only transportation option may be a bus. Which is why Greyhound’s decision to end bus service in Western Canada needs to be part of a much larger conversation about transportation for remote and rural communities. Greyhound’s decision has the potential to leave vulnerable communities and individuals with even fewer options.
The cancellation of these bus routes will disproportionally affect those who are already marginalized and vulnerable. The impact will be felt most deeply by low-income women, men and families who cannot afford another transportation option. They will face increased costs with fewer options to travel from A to B, adding even greater burden on their already precarious financial situations.
For those who are experiencing poverty, ending the bus service means they will have to pay more to access essential services like a doctor or a dentist. Or if they are looking for employment, this announcement raises questions of how they would attend an interview, drop off resumes or even get to work without these bus routes? The reality is that they won’t because there is no other option. Instead, they will be further marginalized.
Those with limited mobility, like seniors living in these remote and rural communities, will be stranded. They will not have an easy, safe or affordable way of getting to necessary medical appointments and may become stranded in their communities, unable to access the services they need.
For many without access to a car, buses are their only option to gather with their family and friends decreasing their isolation and improving their quality of life. These bus routes are more than a luxury, they are a necessity to keep remote communities connected to their family and friends.
An unfortunate reality of the Greyhound bus cuts will mean that women attempting to flee abusive situations will have even fewer options. For many women in remote communities, getting into a car and driving away is not an option. They may not have access to bank accounts, vehicle or lines of credit. A large part of abuse control and that includes limiting access to finances, vehicles and even clothing.
So what will happen without these bus routes? We know that many women looking to leave will have to access less safe transportation options such as hitch-hiking. Some women will stay in abusive relationships because they aren’t able to drive to a shelter. And those experiencing poverty and isolation will face greater barriers.
We must call on our federal and provincial government to find a solution that doesn’t leave these communities cut off from the services and supports they need to survive. This issue is no longer a business decision but requires cooperation and coordination with government to ensure Canadians who need access to buses will continue to have options.