It has been exactly one year since the doors were shut on the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC).
The Saskatchewan Party government announced the closure of the 70-year old provincial bus company in the 2017-18 austerity budget, saying it would save $85 million over the next five years.
The government was confident the private sector would fill the gap in service but 12 months on, passengers don’t have many options.
The Highway Transportation Board confirms there are just six applicants with a license to operate buses, but only two offer regularly scheduled passenger service.
Di-Cal out of Melville, operates a weekday service between Yorkton and Regina, although the start times will be too early for some passengers. The cost is roughly $60.
There is also the Rider Express. It offers a service every day but Sunday between Regina and Saskatoon, along with a service that includes Prince Albert three days a week.
The others are two charter bus services, a party bus company and a school bus charter.
Minister in charge of STC, Joe Hargrave hoped to see more private passenger services but argued it isn’t feasible.
“More people started but what happened was ridership wasn’t there, I mean people were not using the service,” Hargrave said. “Well you can’t expect these businesses to stay operating if nobody is riding it, nobody is taking that service.”
At the time of the closure, the government was accused of rushing the decision and not realizing how many services used STC parcel service as a way to move goods around.
The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, Canadian Blood Services and the provincial library system were just some of the groups that at one point had used STC for transportation between cities and towns.
Hargrave admits to some teething problems with the change but does not regret the government’s decision.
“I feel it was the right decision we made at the time and I still feel that,” Hargrave maintained.
Ride-share legislation has now passed in the province but it isn’t clear how quickly that will be available.
Greyhound Canada remains the only other bus operator. No other bus company, like Red Arrow out of Alberta, have shown any interest in providing service in Saskatchewan.
Until then, many of the passengers in the nearly 250 communities served by STC, remain without bus access.