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Fragmented bus service market emerges as Greyhound exits Western Canada Oct. 31

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A hodge-podge of public transportation services are already starting to fill the gap as Greyhound Canada moves steadily towards its midnight Halloween disappearance from most of Western Canada.

The venerable national motor coach operator is being replaced by a mix of provincial government-subsidized services, Indigenous-owned bus lines, locally owned startups, flexible fleets of shuttle buses and a scattering of formal and informal ride-sharing services.

‘Demand is quite low’

And passengers aren’t waiting for the last Greyhound next Wednesday to check out new options — according to Stuart Kendrick, senior vice-president of Greyhound Canada, ticket sales have already fallen off to the point that some route frequencies are being reduced.

“Demand is quite low as we run into this last week or 10 days,” he said in a recent interview.

“You’ve got single-digit riderships on the schedule that we have left throughout Western Canada, so that’s probably about a 50 or 60 or 70 per cent decline based on what corridor you look at.”

The company plans to stop selling tickets on long-distance routes a few days before the buses stop running to help ensure passengers aren’t left stranded and holding the unused half of a two-way ticket, Kendrick said.

The loss of Greyhound spells opportunity for Regina-based Rider Express, a company that began operating a handful of 15-passenger minibuses on inner-provincial routes shortly after government-owned Saskatchewan Transportation Company shut down its bus services in the spring of 2017.

Rider has acquired five full-sized 50-seat buses and plans to begin passenger service on a Vancouver-Calgary-Winnipeg route on the Trans-Canada Highway this week, followed in November by a Highway 16 route linking Edmonton and Saskatoon, said manager Shauna Hardy. Both routes will directly replace Greyhound routes.

The interest from Saskatchewan residents has been “overwhelming,” she said, adding the company is being asked to take on more routes but has so far declined.

Late last May, Calgary-based Pacific Western Transportation was hired by the province of British Columbia to operate its BC Bus North service after Greyhound cancelled service to communities including Prince Rupert and Dawson Creek.

Greyhound’s announcement in July that it would exit almost all of Western Canada convinced the company to offer its own inter-city services in B.C. for the first time, said John Stepovy, director of business development. He added the company is also expanding its Alberta offerings.

He said he thinks his company can provide the hub in a hub-and-spoke business model as Greyhound closes — it’s already in discussions with operators of small-scale shuttle bus and transit operators about establishing connections with his firm’s routes.

Time for ‘things to shake out’

“Overall, long-term, where the needs are, where there’s demand, we would anticipate voids will be filled but it could take a little bit of time for those things to shake out once the landscape changes,” Stepovy said.

“Discount airlines coming in will probably take on some of that longer-haul (Greyhound demand),” he said. “For bus travel, That one-to-five/six-hour travel time is kind of in the sweet spot.”

He added “disruptors” — new travel options such as Poparides, an app that matches passengers with drivers who happen to be going to the same destinations — are also expected to fill the gap.

Indigenous-owned charter service Kelsey Bus Lines is being renamed Mahihkan Bus Lines and has announced plans to offer daily passenger routes from Thompson and Flin Flon in northern Manitoba to Winnipeg, as well as freight service.

In Alberta, the provincial government has launched pilot programs at a cost of $2.8 million to help five rural municipalities start inter-city bus services. One, centred on Camrose, about 100 kilometres south of Edmonton, has already started and the others are expected to begin over the next three months.

The fragmented inter-city transportation model that is emerging can be a positive change, said Barry Prentice, professor of transportation economics at the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business.

Greyhound likely failed in Western Canada in part because its costs were too high and it lacked the flexibility to respond to changing markets because it carried freight as well as passengers, he said.

“As long as they were in the market, it was hard for anyone else to come in. Now that they’re gone, it creates an opportunity,” he said.

Most new services are planning to pick up and drop off passengers at hotels, gas stations or tourist information centres. Prentice said that means they won’t be burdened with the costly terminal network Greyhound had to maintain.

‘Significant cost’ to shut down

Kendrick said shutting down all routes from northern Ontario to the West Coast involves a “significant cost’ to Greyhound Canada.

He said it’s expected to take several months to sublet its leased real estate and sell its few owned facilities, which include maintenance shops in centres such as Edmonton, Red Deer, Prince Rupert, Prince George and Winnipeg.

The company is laying off about 420 employees. It will move 70 or 80 of its 110 western buses to its ongoing operations in Eastern Canada and sell or scrap the rest.

A Seattle-Vancouver route operated by Greyhound U.S. will continue to use a Vancouver terminal leased by the Canadian arm. Kendrick said the company plans to ask other bus companies to come in as tenants to fill unused capacity there.

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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