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A vicious circle

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A scheduled bus service between Fort Frances and Thunder Bay may be gone for good.

The Caribou Coach Transportation Company's website carries the bleak message that its bus serving the Fort Frances-Thunder Bay route, including Atikokan, is being suspended as of this Saturday (Oct. 14) for an “undetermined period of time.”

The company apologizes in advance for the inconvenience and recommends passengers contact Kasper Minibus, Kelly Coach Van, or North Air Taxi to make travel arrangements.

It's been some time since district residents could go to Winnipeg via bus, and now it seems heading east to Thunder Bay also may fall by the wayside as whether or not Caribou Coach plans to one day resume the service remains to be seen.

Caribou Coach didn't say why it was suspending the route, which already was cut to just one round-trip a week (each Tuesday) back in February due to a dramatic drop in ridership. But given the company is funded entirely by its business operations, one can guess a continued lack of riders is behind the move.

That's the conundrum. While residents may lament the loss of a regularly-scheduled bus service to Thunder Bay, clearly the numbers don't warrant it. Equally obvious is a once-a-week service isn't convenient for those heading to the city for, say, an hour-long doctor's appointment.

Usage doesn't warrant an expanded service and a reduced service doesn't attract customers. It's a vicious circle.

So what's the answer? With a taxpayer-subsidized bus service unlikely, and private companies like Caribou Coach unable to make the route financially viable for now, residents are left to get to Thunder Bay themselves or use one of the alternative options available.

But if residents want a return of some kind of regularly-scheduled bus service, it's a clear case of using it or losing it.

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