After seven decades in operation, Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) will no longer be in service by the end of May.
As part of its 2017-18 budget, the province announced it’s winding down operations at the Crown bus company – leaving 224 people out of work.
The loss of service will impact 253 communities.
“What are the core services that people expect from government – and it is not necessarily a bus company,” Finance Minister Kevin Doherty said Wednesday.
“It was a difficult decision, but we have to get back to delivering the core services that people want from this government.”
In a news release Wednesday, Crown Investments Minister Joe Hargrave stated STC was no longer sustainable, as subsidies for the next five years were pegged at $85 million.
“STC’s per passenger subsidy has grown from $25 per passenger ten years ago, to $94 per passenger today,” Hargrave said.
STC will continue to accept freight for delivery until May 19. All passenger services will cease May 31.
The community of La Loche, located about a six-hour drive northwest of Saskatoon, received STC service in 2007.
“(The elimination of STC) adds more instability for residents to travel to other communities,” said Robert St. Pierre, the mayor of La Loche.
St. Pierre hopes for a private company to eventually take over the routes.
“We’ve been forgotten for many years, please don’t let us be forgotten again, transportation is an essential service,” he said.
Greyhound spokesperson Lanesha Gipson said they’re assessing the situation but there are no current plans to add additional routes in the province.
Nathan Peardon, 22, doesn’t have a car in La Loche and uses the bus to get to Saskatoon.
“It’s frustrating because of the uncertainty. Sometimes my friends can drive me, but what if I have a major appointment, that’s what worries me,” he said.
Depot operator Bob Hunje, who works in Asquith west of Saskatoon, wasn’t upset by the announcement. He told 650 CKOM he’s only had one passenger buy a ticket in the last five months.
“Nobody takes the bus anymore,” he said.
The province noted 182,386 passengers used STC in 2016-17. Overall, ridership has dropped 35 per cent in the last five years.
Only two out of 27 routes in the company’s network were profitable – particularly the line between Regina and Saskatoon.
The province noted bus travel in Saskatchewan peaked 35 years ago, but has declined by 77 per cent since.
As for the short window of time before service ends, the province said new buses were on order and they would have to pay for them.
STC was founded in 1946 under then-Premier Tommy Douglas.
The STC surprised customers Wednesday morning by announcing temporary service disruptions and bus cancellations starting at 1 p.m.
Unbeknownst to the public, operations were curtailed to give staff a chance to meet with management regarding the upcoming end of the service.
As such, from 1 p.m. March 22 and into the next day, various scheduled trips across the network will be suspended. Services will resume Thursday afternoon.
Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert terminals will remain open during that time.
Customers are asked to check the STC website for further information on schedules.
– With files from JT Marshall.