Cold Lake residents feeling left behind

For many of us living in the city, means of transportation are readily available, but when it comes to our neighbouring rural neighbours, it’s a convenience that isn’t taken for granted.

Many residents of rural Alberta are still struggling with the impact of Greyhound’s year-old decision to cut passenger service to 14 towns and cities.

Cold Lake was one of those communities affected by the cuts.

Craig Copeland, the city’s mayor said, “It was a shock to everybody – to all the communities in Alberta. It sort of hit everybody between the eyes.”

 Cold Lake is about a three hour drive from Edmonton and eight hours away from Calgary – not counting stops on the bus.

Copeland explained many residents – especially seniors – utilized the transportation service on a day-to-day basis.

“There were six to ten people a day that would use the Greyhound on a frequent basis The Northern Express bus route makes only a few stops between Edmonton and Cold Lake. Previously Greyhound provided service to a greater number of communities.

Photo illustration by Zoë Choyto get to medical appointments or to visit people in the city,” he said.

Despite Greyhound cutting its transportation services to areas such as Cold Lake, the company continues to run a courier service to the community, sparking some confusion from those being left behind.

“They got rid of the passengers but they’re still delivering freight and I question that,” the mayor said.

“It was a double-edged sword; kind of like freight became more important than people in the business scheme of things.”

Greyhound did not return a call asking them to comment on the issue.

Since the cuts have been made, another private company, Northern Express has tried picking up where Greyhound left off.

Unfortunately, some residents report new problems have arisen with the new service.

Connie Axell, a disabled senior living in Cold Lake explained, “It used to be only four hours on the bus, and now because there’s only one bus for the whole area, it runs from Edmonton, goes to St. Paul etc. and to here, so it’s like a milk run; you’re almost six hours on the bus.”

As well, due to the Northern Express being a smaller, family-owned company, ticket prices have risen and times of departure pushed back.

“Before the bus used to get in here around 6 o’clock to 8 o’clock, you’d get in around noon and then you could catch the 6 o’clock bus back out. But this way, you have to spend a couple days in the city, so it costs a lot of money,” Axell said.

Evelyn Berkshire, another senior living in Cold Lake, has experienced similar problems.

“It’s tough. For me to go down in a hotel for two nights, take a cab, and then to eat — I’m looking at close to $700,” Berkshire said.

Both have since opted to hire someone with a vehicle to drive them to Edmonton, resulting in missed medical appointments.

“I can’t go anymore on the bus, it’s just not feasible for me,” said Axell, “I don’t know what the answer to this bus situation is.”

The service cut has also prevented family and friends from visiting those in the region.

There have been mixed opinions on whether or not the city could do something more to help residents such as Axell and Berkshire.

However, despite the reported troubles that have since arisen from the new bus line, Mayor Copeland had this to say about the Northern Express: “It’s good to see they’ve picked up that slack.”

zchoy@cjournal.ca