In the News
Our Security Lies in Defending the Rights of All
Let’s Ride! Citizens’ Group Calls for
Public Transportation Service
A “fend for yourself” neo-liberal ideology dominates the thinking and policies of governments in Canada, the U.S. and other countries. This has meant massive bailouts of financial institutions and corporations, outsourcing of jobs, as well as deregulation, privatization and cuts to public services. The result has been the stagnation of wages and deterioration of living and working conditions for many Canadians, as well as a sharp rise in homelessness everywhere.
One of the areas hit hardest by this ideology has been public transportation, especially in rural and remote areas of British Columbia. Years ago, BC Rail had passenger service from North Vancouver deep into the Interior of the province. For its part, Greyhound also had a web of bus lines connecting communities in the province.
BC Rail has long since been privatized and the passenger service eliminated, while Greyhound has abandoned its bus service not only in BC but across Canada. Many small communities do not even have a taxi service.
This “fend for yourself” ideology has caused serious problems for residents in small communities, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who must access medical appointments and other needed services in larger centres. In many cases, people have to stay over in hotels for several days waiting to board the next bus home (if there is one) or rely on friends and family to provide transportation in what can be difficult winter conditions.
Similar transportation problems exist for students and people who hold jobs outside their hometowns. In addition, the growing number of seniors who can no longer drive end up trapped in their communities and are not able to maintain connections with family and friends or access health services and other necessities not available in their home locations.
For some people, being forced to rely on hitchhiking has contributed to such terrible tragedies as the missing and murdered women on the Highway of Tears. Compounding these significant challenges, there are the problems of excessive costs, as well as difficulties in some places with the transferability of tickets when multiple private transportation services must be utilized.
Across the province, a hodgepodge of privately and provincially funded bussing operations exists. But many smaller communities still get inadequate service or none at all whether it is in the Interior or North or Vancouver Island.
In response to this situation, some residents of British Columbia have taken the initiative and sprung into action. They have formed an organization, “Let’s Ride! — Make Public Transit BC-Wide,” and are calling for a province-wide publicly-owned transportation service that could eventually link up with a national service.
Let’s Ride! argues that the current transportation system does not “adequately address the safety concerns or social needs of our citizens, many of whom live in rural areas, small municipalities or remote communities.”
It further points out that instead “transit across BC is a patchwork of good service, poor service and no service at all, depending on where you live. Reliance on private companies to provide transit services has left [people] stranded when those companies shut down or move on.” What is needed is “a unified inter-community network that will guarantee all British Columbians access to the rest of the province.”
In addition, the group has put forward a petition to the federal Parliament calling upon the Government of Canada “to create or empower a national public corporation to provide transportation by bus and rail to Canadians, with the mission of connecting all communities within every province and territory with safe, affordable, accessible, resilient, and integrated service.”
The petition is being sponsored by Taylor Bachrach, NDP member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, and is open for signature until March 9. It can be signed here.
1. LET’S RIDE! Make Public Transit BC Wide — Campaign for safe, affordable, quality public bus service (bcwidebus.com).
(Workers’ Forum, posted February 5, 2022)