I’m talking of the impending demise of the dinosaur that is the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, the Government -owned bus company that’s been losing money for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Facing tough times, Brad Wall’s government has finally chosen to bring the axe down on the under-utilized service.
STC was created in 1946 when nearly two thirds of the provincial population lived in rural areas. It’s purpose was to provide cheap transportation between rural communities and towns and cities. Since then Saskatchewan has urbanized so that today the ratio of urban to rural dwellers is reversed. Throw in a wealthier population with increased automobile access and the fact is there are simply not enough users of the service to justify it.
Ridership has dropped 77 per cent since intercity bus travel was most popular in Saskatchewan 35 years ago, and STC’s per passenger subsidy has grown to $94 per passenger now from $25 per passenger 10 years ago.
That’s right! 94-FUCKING-DOLLARS PER PASSENGER! It’d be cheaper just to give them the money to take a cab. Even those STC customers who will be most affected realize that the service can’t be justified.
Raquel Crizaldo, a passenger trying to get home to Oxbow, has been taking the bus to Regina weekly for nearly two years to take a class required for her employment. “I don’t know what I’ll do now,” she said.
However, Crizaldo also appreciates the government’s dilemma. She’s often the only rider from Oxbow to Estevan, where a few more people might get on. “I’m going to suffer, but I agree … They’re wasting a lot of money.”
Of course the Saskatchewan left are foaming at the mouth because it’s an assault on the sacrosanct legacy of St. Tommy Douglas not to mention 225 unionized NDP-supporting jobs are going down the drain.
I can only applaud this move by the Wall government even though they should have done this years ago. The fact is, hardly anyone is likely to suffer long term inconvenience for the simple fact that the demise of the STC provides plenty of opportunities for local entrepreneurs who with appropriately sized vehicles and low overheads, will be able to operate services on most of the routes where the STC currently loses millions.
Don’t believe me? As it happens, my Mom lives in the small town of Outlook (population 2200), and lo and behold it has a privately-owned mini-bus service that connects it, and several smaller local communities to Saskatoon (population 246,000), about an hour’s drive away. In the meantime STC is unable to turn a profit on the route between Moose Jaw (population 33,000) and Regina (population 215,000). In areas where private operators were struggling, the government could provide small subsidies either to the transport operators, or to passengers at a fraction of the cost of what it spends maintaining the STC.
In five years, nobody will remember, let alone, care about, the STC. Good Riddance!