Flixbus, a bus service that uses a smartphone app, has expanded from Europe to the U.S. (Flickr)

Pressure on for ride hailing, bus options in B.C.

Premiers to press Ottawa for help replacing Greyhound service

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is preparing B.C.’s long-awaited policy to allow smartphone-based ride hailing, an approach that may also help fill the gap left as Greyhound pulls out of communities across Western Canada.

Premier John Horgan said Monday the B.C. government will have more to say this month on allowing ride hailing services, a promise made by both the NDP and B.C. Liberals in last year’s election campaign.

The transportation revolution pioneered by U.S. services Uber and Lyft may offer solutions for the decline of scheduled bus service, if the province eases regulations that protect taxi and inter-city bus companies. Lyft has opened up state-wide services in the U.S. to allow private car owners to offer inter-city trips, to encourage expansion beyond urban areas. A company representative says rural service suits part-time drivers, who make up the majority of Lyft’s participating drivers.

RELATED: Lyft promotes rural inter-city ride hailing

And German service Flixbus has expanded from Europe into the U.S., with online bookings for inter-city bus trips using a smartphone app.

Horgan is heading to New Brunswick this week for the annual Council of the Federation meeting, where premiers will be seeking assistance from the federal government to deal with the departure of Greyhound.

RELATED: Trudeau wants solution to Greyhound departure

Trudeau asked federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau to “work with the company” after Greyhound said falling ridership and losses left it no choice but to end service west of Sudbury, Ont. at the end of October.

Trevena has ruled out a provincial subsidy for Greyhound, and has indicated no willingness to expand its B.C. Transit weekly service to northern communities after Greyhound ended service there in June.

“Really what [Greyhound] wanted was deregulation and an investment into its operation,” Trevena said. “We weren’t prepared to invest in Greyhound, and we have unfortunately seen that Greyhound at that time just told us they were pulling out of the northern routes, and now has pulled out from across Western Canada.”

Horgan said the company’s decision to end all Western Canada service shows that the “crisis in transportation” goes far beyond B.C. and needs a national solution.

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