The shutdown of Greyhound bus routes across Canada has left people without affordable transit according to anti-poverty and student advocates in Ottawa, even as another company adds routes west of the city.
On Thursday, Greyhound Canada announced it was permanently shutting down all of its remaining bus routes in Canada after a year of suspended service because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just a day later, Megabus announced it would be adding a stop in Ottawa, providing service to Toronto, Scarborough and Kingston, but officials with the company said it had no current plans to replace service east of the city.
Some in Ottawa say that leaves a significant gap in mobility for those who need it most.
"It's quite unfortunate," said Emilly Renaud, the national co-ordinator for Canada Without Poverty, a non-profit anti-poverty organization based in Ottawa.
"So many rely on Greyhound, either because Via Rail or other transportation services in their communities are a lot less affordable."
Renaud said groups like women fleeing domestic violence, including Indigenous women, use services like Greyhound because it's affordable, and not having routes across the country is "borderline a human rights issue."
'Significant loss for students'
Students from Quebec or the Maritimes also need affordable transit, said Tim Gulliver, student union president for the University of Ottawa.
"This is a significant loss for students," he said. "What we're going to see, especially after the pandemic, is an inability of students to get home."
Being left with no option but to pay for "the cost of a plane ticket or a train ticket, those financial constraints become even even tougher."
Gulliver himself would ride a Greyhound bus to visit his home in Sherbrooke, Que. He said now he will have to look for alternate arrangements.
National transit service needed
Both Renaud and Gulliver called on the federal government to establish or subsidize a national transit service.
"This could be an opportunity for the government to step in and work with Megabus to ensure that routes aren't just in the most profitable areas, because that is actually how a private sector is going to run," said Renaud.
She said government has a responsibility to make transportation to communities across Canada as accessible as possible so "people can have the freedom to move ... and access services and employment and not have to be stuck."