Ride-sharing groups, where people connect through social media to offer each other rides, are steadily increasing in popularity as another option to travel throughout B.C.’s interior.
With vast distances between communities and limited options for passengers, travelling south without a vehicle can be tough.
Many people are finding the solutions to affordable long-distance travel through social media.
Geni Mack-Laurie, from Willams Lake, started the Facebook group Share Ride in 2016.
“At the time, my nieces were going to college and university in Kamloops, and because they were students, it was hard for them to find rides back and forth from Williams Lake,” says Mack-Laurie, “so I started the group in hopes that people travelling back and forth could give them rides.”
Mack-Laurie says, at first, the group was just open to friends and family, but she eventually opened the group up to the public.
The group now has over 3,000 members, with an average of two to three daily posts of members organizing rides throughout B.C.’s interior and beyond.
“A lot of people want to go down to the States, and even people in the States are using my group,” says Mack-Laurie, adding that she’s surprised at how popular her group has become over the years.
“It has helped quite a few people who want to go to Vancouver, Kamloops, Prince George, Quesnel, for things like a doctor’s appointment,” says Mack-Laurie, adding “they just post on there, and there's always somebody going in that direction.”
After Greyhound pulled its service from Western Canada, the options for travellers in the Interior became even more limited for people who are either on a budget or without a vehicle or driver’s licence.
For example, the average return plane ticket from Prince George to Vancouver is quite expensive, ranging anywhere from $300 to $400, and travelling to Vancouver by train would cost roughly the same price and take two-and-a-half days, including a pit stop in Jasper.
There are also charter bus companies that provide transportation throughout the region, but they are not particularly well suited or cost-effective for small groups or individual travellers.
But Mack-Laurie doesn’t think Greyhound’s service ending has much to do with the growing popularity of her group.
“I think it started getting popular before then,” says Mack-Laurie, adding “because of the cost of Greyhound, and it being late constantly people were just not happy with it.”
With the launch of B.C. Bus North in June 2018, the provincial government is filling a gap in transportation services left by Greyhound’s departure for communities in Northern B.C.
B.C. Bus North, which operates long-haul passenger service in Prince George, Prince Rupert, Valemont, Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson, is already reporting successful ridership numbers.
As of early August, a total of 900 trips have been booked in just a little over two months since its launch.
“This is an interim service as the province works to find a long-term solution for the north, and, following Greyhound’s decision to end service in all of Western Canada, the entire province,” states a provincial news release.
In the meantime, Mack-Laurie says her group seems to keep growing in popularity.
She notes that rideshare groups are beneficial because people have the opportunity to private message and get to know each other before the trip.
Mack-Laurie says that a lot of the time people in the Share Ride Facebook group end up knowing each other in some way.
“People are pretty good about being safe,” she says, adding that “if people don’t feel comfortable, they won’t take the ride especially from folks they don’t know.”
She says the group is just a way for people to connect with each other and offer rides for folks to get to from point A to point B.
“It's up to the individual to ask if they need gas money,” says Mack-Laurie, adding “if they don’t need help with gas, they will just say we need company. It’s up to each individual when they advertise, and it’s open to everybody."