1 Year Later: Intercity Transit after Greyhound

Today marks one year since Greyhound pulled out all but one of its routes from Western Canada, on October 31, 2018. Its been two and a half years since the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) stopped its service entirely, on May 21, 2017.

Brandon transit

Former bus depot in Brandon, Manitoba. There is no intercity service between Winnipeg and Brandon, the two largest cities in Manitoba.

Since then, private companies have adopted profitable routes and provide patchwork service across the prairies. These private companies are grossly inadequate for the geographical area.

"Private consortiums that are picking up these routes are only doing it for profit. And we believe strongly that mobility is a human right that should not be for profit.” ATU Canada President, John Di Nino (quoted in the Edmonton Journal)

The collapse of inter-city bus in Western Canada has had an immense human cost. We asked some of these riders what they loved about the bus. Their stories are featured in "Still Waiting For The Bus: The Unnatural Death of Prairie Intercity Transit" a beautiful piece of audio journalism produced by Emily Leedham, of Rank and File Radio.

“Inter-city transit is at the crux of so many social, economic and environmental issues. It impacts the most vulnerable in our society: Indigenous women, people with disabilities, people who are on low-income, elderly people, people who can’t afford cars. This is how people are getting connected to their families, communities, jobs and also to public services. On the Prairies, you have a decentralized population with core services very centralized. If you want to get some specialized health-care treatment or access to the court systems, things like that, you have to go into those bigger city centres. Reducing peoples’ ways to get to those places has a major impact on their social well-being.” Emily Leedham, (quoted in the Edmonton Journal)

What we heard from former passengers of these intercity services:

  • We heard from riders in Western Canada who feel a profound sense of economic anxiety and alienation. They feel personally targeted by the loss of the service, and as if their safety and wellbeing doesn’t matter to the government. 
  • We heard heartbreaking stories of riders now trapped in their own homes, with a deep sense of loss of autonomy and independence. 
  • We heard how young people are now relying on posting ads on Kijiji for rides, and using hitchhiking to get around.
  • We heard from elderly residents who are forced to drive in bad weather and late at night, despite feeling unsafe and uncomfortable doing so.
  • We heard from former drivers, who worry about their former passengers, knowing that without the service those passengers have lost access to medical services that they relied on. 
  • We heard that because there is no reliable intercity transit, women have been murdered by abusive partners. 
  • We heard the myriad of ways that the bus service was relied on to make farms work, to connect people to healthcare, blood to hospitals, books to libraries, and workers to their jobs.
  • We heard from former riders and workers whose lives have been irreparably changed by this exodus. 

Documenting these voices is starting a discussion among those affected – the workers and the passengers – about filling in the gaps in a new transit network, in nationalizing the existing patchwork, and the restoration of a publicly operated, funded and maintained inter-city bus network.

Accompanying the documentary is a pledge calling on the federal government to establish a national intercity transit service: Access the audio documentary and pledge here

Hundreds of people have signed the pledge, including newly elected MP for Winnipeg Centre, Leah Gazan. People have pledged to support intercity transit from across the country, from Dawson City, Yukon to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Leah Gazan pledge

Recently elected MP for Winnipeg Centre, Leah Gazan, signed the pledge

The results of the Federal Election on October 21 clearly demonstrate that Western Canada is feeling alienated by Liberal governance. With the fall out of Liberal candidates in the prairies, we will look to pro-transit MPs across the prairies to take action to nationalize intercity transit and ensure accessibility and affordability for all Canadians and residents.

ATU President, John Di Nino, and documentary maker, Emily Leedham, are in Manitoba today launching a national campaign and asking the federal government to come forward with a renewed and vibrant vision for intercity public transit. We are demanding the establishment of a national public intercity transit service as part of a Green New Deal for social, economic and environmental justice and tangible reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The press release is available here.

Emily and John infront of Greyhound Bus

ATU Canada President John Di Nino and documentary maker Emily Leedham, in Winnipeg for the press conference.

News Coverage 

"West needs public bus system to replace Greyhound, transit union says" Winnipeg Free Press (Ben Waldman and Dylan Robertson) October 31, 2019

"Business good but challenges for bus companies a year after Greyhound pulled out" Edmonton Journal (Jason Herring) October 31, 2019

Transit Union pushing Ottawa to help rebuild intercity bus service - Q Country 91.5FM, November 1, 2019

"Union calls for public intercity transit" The Brandon Sun (Drew May)  November 1, 2019


The Campaign Hoping to Restore Intercity Transit, CTV Winnipeg, October 31, 2019

The loss of Greyhound one year ago makes it hard to travel, CityNews, October 31, 2019