Edmonton Dispatcher: Why we’re fighting

You’re on a crowded motor coach arriving in town for the first time. After a wearying 21-hour trip from Chilliwack, it’s late at night when you step off the bus. Your relief at arriving is tempered by an icy blast of Arctic air and pelting snow.

You’ve been dropped off at Greyhound’s new depot, located in an industrial area near a defunct airport and a busy traffic artery. Your first task is to gather your luggage and get to where you’re spending the night.

You could hop on a train, because Via Rail shares the same site — but only if you’re heading back out of town. You could call for a taxi, but you’re a little light on cash, which is why you took an inter-city bus in the first place.

Greyhound offers twice-daily shuttles downtown, but the last one left hours ago and the next one is hours away.

You search for a transit bus. Surely, Alberta’s capital city doesn’t strand newcomers and visitors. There must be public transit connecting the remote, under-serviced station with civilization. You are wrong. Edmonton does exactly that. The nearest bus stop is a kilometre away.

You and your fellow contestants trudge through the snow on the road — there is no sidewalk — dragging your luggage behind you. Welcome to Edmonton.

This excerpt comes from an editorial published in the Edmonton Journal back in January. You can read the whole piece here. To sum up the issue, Greyhound ran a terminal at 103 Ave and 102 St. in downtown Edmonton for many years. This was definately not a pretty terminal but it was very close to the LRT system and several frequent bus routes, as well as being walking distance from the central hostel and many major hotels. Progress being progress, this land is now being redeveloped as part of the new Oiler’s arena (temple of McDavid?) and Greyhound decided to move their terminal to the site of the VIA station; between the abandoned aiport and Yellowhead Highway…….a place with no sidewalks, or any transit service at all. That’s right, in order to get to your bus you are now forced to take a cab that could cost as much as your entire Greyhound journey. Ridiculous right?

But wait, you’re thinking. You two dudes made a map of Ontario bus routes, who cares what’s going on out West?

Well, fair enough. But, I (Vincent) spent over a year living in Edmonton, so I have a bit of soft spot for Alberta’s capital. Also, the kind of experience described in this article is all too common in towns and smaller cities throughout Canada; where intercity bus riders are relegated to a gas station on the edge of town. Out of sight, out of mind you could say. It’s all the more shocking when a Canadian provincial capital shoves transit riders out of the way in this fashion.

I guess you could say that this attitude on the part of our politicians and the “powers that be” are part of the reason why Shaun and I gave up our rollicking lives of partying (maybe a tiny bit of sarcasm here) to create a bus map. We’re sick and tired of being treated like second class citizens because we would rather take a bus and we don’t think that anyone who gets on a Greyhound to save them the cost of driving should have to deal with being treated like that either.

I know, I know. The City of Edmonton (and others) will claim that intercity buses are private companies and thus, they don’t need to take a stand when Greyhound decides to move their terminal to a place utterly inaccessible to anyone without a car or money for a cab. But that’s just the problem isn’t it? Roads get massive subsidies from all levels of government yet nobody seems to want to pony up the cash for a public, central bus terminal? That just gets me mad and if you’re reading this blog, it probably gets you mad too.

So, what to do about all this? Don’t stay silent! If your city or town makes intercity buses pick up passengers at some far off location, ask your politicians why this is allowed. Don’t accept the “but the buses are private” as an answer. If they say that, tell them that they should close down all your downtown parking lots too, and make drivers walk downtown. Yes, that’s pretty radical but why should it be any different for a bus rider?

Vincent signing off for now, more bus rants to come!

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