After 70 years, the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) went out with a whimper.
There was no rally nor protest, barely a wave from some people on the street. The toot of the horn and the clicking of media cameras was all that could be heard as the bus departed the Regina bus depot for the final time.
On board were 24 passengers en route to Preeceville and destinations in between.
Inside the depot, some passengers took photos. One on the way to Prince Albert took a photo with the route map and the STC sign. Another carried a poster and decorated her suitcase with STC colours.
One passenger took for more drastic action to get her message across.
“I have come from North Battleford on one of the last STC buses,” Lorna Reimer said. “Of course I have no way of getting back home.”
Disappointed at what she feels is Premier Brad Wall hiding from the issue, Reimer argued that people have no other options when travelling around the province.
“I will be staying with family before somewhere, some way, there is a ride back to North Battleford,” Reimer said. “You are either forced to depend on family or you are forced to take rides from people you don’t know.”
Other passengers at the depot shrugged their shoulders at the closure of the provincial bus company.
“There’s no room for $15 million a year to subsidize it,” said George Sharpe, who had been riding the bus since the 1970s. “I remember back then it was so full that I was the last passenger that got a seat. They had to bring in another bus an hour later.”
But he admitted times had changed and the service simply wasn’t used like it once was.
Sharpe’s big concern was what was coming next. He expressed anger that the Amalgamated Transit Union has lodged a notice of opposition with the Highway Traffic Board against the private companies that have applied to run passenger services.
“There are people stepping in and, in the meantime, there is just nothing,” he said.
Public hearings are set to take place in June to hear the opposition before a decision will be made.
Buses roll in
While Saskatoon saw a bigger protest at the STC depot, there was just a small protest of about 20 people as the final two buses arrived at the Regina depot.
There were roughly 15 passengers on the bus from Saskatoon, eight on the Regina bus.
“It was pretty sad, a lot of the seniors getting on were pretty sad,” Don Blackwell said as he walked off the bus from Saskatoon.
His small job in retirement was driving cars to Saskatoon and then returning home to Regina on the bus. Now he isn’t sure what he will do.
“I won’t be hitchhiking at my age.”
Like many, he is hoping there will be an alternate passenger service offered soon.
It is the end of an era not just for passengers, but for those who benefited from STC.
Bennett’s Garage is going to feel the difference. The gas station in the town between Regina and Saskatoon has been one of the STC bus stops for decades.
“It will be different at 9 a.m. Thursday as there will be no bus pulling in but we’ve got other business to do and we will carry on with what we’ve got to do,” owner Lyle Bennett explained.
If a new passenger service between the major centres starts up, Bennett is open to once again providing a service.
“There’s no reason to stop now.”
As the last bus rolled into Chamberlain, Bennett and the crew did their best to ensure the moment wasn’t forgotten.
“A lady from town brought over a brownie and a rhubarb crisp and we had some cake with the driver and had a little bit of a get together,” Bennett said with a smile.