One of our earlier posts on this blog, laid into the horrible location of Edmonton’s new Greyhound terminal. In May of 2016, the bus terminal in Alberta’s capital relocated from a downtown site, close to the city’s LRT and numerous bus routes, to the VIA station: sandwiched between an abandoned airport and the Yellowhead highway. As the train station only serves three VIA departures weekly, the site has no connection to the wider transit network and no way for pedestrians to leave aside from dragging luggage through a Northern Alberta winter next to highway traffic.
Since our piece was written, the situation has improved somewhat. As of September this year, a shuttle operates between the terminal and a nearby LRT station, where passengers can connect to the rest of the city. Definitely a welcome development, but it’s a measure of how disrespected bus riders are thought of that it took over a year for this solution to happen. Unfortunately, relocating intercity buses to inaccessible locations is a trend that continues to grow in Canada and the US.
In Saskatoon and Regina, not only has the provincial bus operator been shut down by the government, Greyhound service in both cities has been relocated from central terminals to inaccessible locations. Saskatoon’s new Greyhound stop is now in an industrial area next to the airport, impossible to walk to and with only minimal local transit service.
You can see that the environment doesn’t encourage you to ride the bus! In Regina, the situation is actually worse; the new stop is at the airport itself with, you guessed it, no transit service at all! Imagine building an airport in a Canadian city and not having highway access, the opposition would be immediate and loud; bus riders are clearly an afterthought in policymaking. The Edmonton terminal was closed to make way for condo development downtown and the Saskatchewan terminals were provincially run stations, shut down when the public intercity bus operator ceased operations. In these cases, elected governments considered people without cars as unworthy of consideration and Greyhound, as a private company, moved to cheaper locations to affect their bottom line.
In the cities that have not yet relegated their bus riders to suburban oblivion, one factor is constant: they still have publically run central stations. This is the case in both Toronto and Montreal. Montreal’s terminal is owned by the provincial government and sits next to a major Metro station in the heart of downtown. Toronto’s is run by the municipal transit agency and also sits near several subway stations and walking distance from many central destinations. Vancouver’s main bus terminal is shared with VIA rail and Amtrak, two public railways and is located adjacent to downtown and a rapid transit station. Compare these three locations to the Saskatoon map above…..where would you rather ride to?
Montreal’s bus station, right on the Metro:
Toronto Coach Terminal, next to two subway stations and on the frequent Dundas streetcar:
Finally, Vancouver Pacific Central Station; walking distance to downtown and on a Skytrain + frequent bus lines:
THIS is how to place a bus station, close to amenities and local transit.
We don’t have any opposition to secondary bus terminals in the suburbs, however. With Canadian populations so dispersed, it makes sense in many cases. However, thought must be given to how the station interacts with local transport. A good example would be the Scarborough bus terminal, connected to TTC rapid transit, local buses and GO buses. The pedestrian environment leaves much to be desired but compared to poor unfortunates leaving buses in Saskatoon, a passenger to Scarborough can actually travel onwards to a final destination and wait for connections protected from the elements and with a major shopping centre nearby for refreshment.
Good bus terminals don’t even need a big city, while many smaller towns have riders waiting for their buses at gas stations and other inhospitable locations, Owen Sound’s bus terminal is shared with the local transit system and is located in the walkable downtown
In spite of assertions from various levels of government that intercity buses are completely a private sector affair, logic would dictate that the most successful ones are public facilities that can integrate local transit and are often located in walkable areas. To bring some dignity to people who can’t (or don’t want) to travel by car, we would like to see more local and provincial governments investing in such terminals, instead of telling bus riders they are worth next to nothing and can just carry their luggage in the snow.