Cuts to Winnipeg bus route bound to irk riders here

Duane Hicks

FORT FRANCES—A change in the Greyhound bus schedule, which took effect Tuesday, will put a crimp in some district riders’ travel plans since there no longer will be a 10:15 a.m. bus from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay nor a 7:25 p.m. bus from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg for the rest of the winter.
Tasha Cross, manager of Excel Coach Lines of Kenora, said Tuesday they will continue to run their bus from Fort Frances to Kenora five days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday), departing from here at 3 p.m. and arriving in Kenora by about 6 p.m.
However, those passengers looking to catch the Greyhound bus to Winnipeg now will have to wait until 5 a.m. the next day, meaning they will have to find a motel or other accommodation or else find another means to get to Winnipeg, whether that be a person in Kenora willing to drive the rest of the way or taking a taxi.
Up until now, there was a two-hour wait in Kenora before passengers could get on the Greyhound bus and arrive in Winnipeg at 10:45 p.m.
Having just learned of Greyhound’s bus service reduction in recent days, Cross noted they will take a look at their scheduling options in the future, but for the time being will stick with their current timetable and see how it goes.
“We’re looking at our options,” she remarked. “This is just new to us in the past couple days, so we haven’t had a chance to process how that’s going to impact Excel.
“Right now, we’re just going to let it run and see what the impact is, and then probably look into it further.”
Cross added Greyhound is expected to put the additional buses back on the road in May, adding this reduction is a measure for the winter months.
Cross conceded the Greyhound schedule change is “really inconvenient” for passengers en route to Winnipeg from Fort Frances.
“There’s no consideration being taken for the smaller areas,” she remarked. “We’ve just got figure out what that impact does to us, and how to handle it.”
Paul Bock, who runs the local bus depot, said he only learned of the change Tuesday morning.
He pointed out that while the former arrangement, which saw passengers leave here around 3 p.m. and eventually arrive in Winnipeg by 10:45 p.m., “wasn’t ideal,” it was still “miles ahead of where it is now.”
“As of right now . . . you’ll have to wait until about 5 a.m. to catch a bus into Winnipeg, and that doesn’t get you there [to Winnipeg] until 7:20 a.m.,” Bock noted. “Basically, you’ve got to overnight in Kenora at a coffee shop or a hotel, and it certainly adds to the expenses, to say the least.”
Bock added he suspects waiting for the morning bus “will be a very last resort” for most people.
“I think you’re going to find people that will give a friend $100 or $200 to take them into Winnipeg, or get together and take a taxi, or take a taxi to Kenora to connect, or get a friend to give them a ride to Kenora to connect to one of the buses that still runs,” he figured.
“I honestly think the bus route will be a last resort,” he stressed. “I could be wrong, people may be willing to spend the night in Tim Hortons or something, but if it was me, there’s got to be other options out there to work with.
“Maybe they [Excel] will come around with something here—it’s got to affect Kenora’s business pretty greatly here,” Bock added. “There was a fair amount of passengers coming through from Winnipeg that kind of helped pay for that bus from Kenora to here.
“I am thinking they may adjust their times, but I am not the person to talk to.”
Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said Tuesday the reduction in the one round-trip from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay is “due to low ridership.”
“It’s my understanding, that for now at least, that specific trip is being removed for six months,” she noted. “We’re coming off, right now, one of our busiest times of the year, and so I think that’s the reason, specifically, for the six months.”
Wambaugh noted Greyhound went through the proper channels to temporarily reduce its service, and applied to the minister of transportation for permission to do so.
(Fort Frances Times)