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Closure of bus depots part of industry-wide struggle: CEO – BC News – Castanet.net

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Maryanne Titian, 69, says she and her husband John both have diabetes, and he is also waiting on a kidney transplant while she has suffered mild heart attacks.

The couple uses buses to get to medical appointments at least once a month that are hours away.

Since the closure of several bus depots on Vancouver Island this year, they are often left waiting outside in poor weather conditions for hours.

“It’s hard,” Titian said. “My husband and I are both not feeling well, we get sick really easy.”

“This time of year, it’s windy, it’s raining, it’s snowing in some places,” she said.

The closure of bus depots on Vancouver Island is part of a wider decline in services across Canada that are leaving some vulnerable people at risk.

The largest shift came in 2018, when Greyhound Canada announced it was cancelling service in most of Western Canada, citing plunging demand.

The provincial government stepped in to fill some of the gaps in northern British Columbia, including along the so-called Highway of Tears between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

The service BC Bus North, operated by Pacific Western Transportation, now provides transportation along the route where at least 18 women have gone missing or have been murdered, several of whom were last seen hitchhiking. It also serves Valemount, Dawson Creek, Fort. St. John and Fort Nelson.

A hodgepodge of other companies also entered the void left by Greyhound in parts of Western Canada and northern Ontario but haven’t matched the service provided by Greyhound.

While Greyhound announced it was pulling out of the Island months before the rest of Western Canada, its disappearance still has ripple effects on the local bus businesses, the CEO of one company said.

John Wilson of Wilson Group, which operates much of Vancouver Island’s bus services through its companies Wilson’s Transportation and Tofino Bus, said Greyhound played a key role in bringing passengers and freight from across the country.

“That connectivity across the country has stopped,” Wilson said, adding that apart from internal freight services, the company now almost entirely relies on passenger revenue.

Wilson Group is partnering with companies like Ebus, which has taken up and added stops along Greyhound’s Kelowna-Kamloops route, to try to reconnect the Interior with Vancouver and Vancouver Island, but gaps still remain, he said.

Ride sharing services and the consumer’s own decisions to drive are also affecting the bottom line, he said.

To compensate for declining demand, Wilson closed five bus depots this year in Port Alberni, Courtenay, Tofino, Parksville and Port Hardy, he said.

“Unfortunately, we had to make some tough decisions around closing some stations,” Wilson said.

Passengers are now primarily picked up at the curbside, although Wilson said the company is in discussions with some local businesses to allow passengers to wait inside.

Bus companies across North America are facing similar challenges, he said, and eliminating bricks and mortar operations are one of the ways they can reduce overhead without cutting routes.

While online bookings may not be accessible to many seniors or individuals without credit cards, between 80 and 85 per cent of passengers now book online, reducing the need for ticketing agents, he said.

Wilson said the company’s call centre remains open and he encouraged passengers experiencing barriers to reach out directly, adding the company will do its best to accommodate them.

“We definitely think it’s a small minority,” he said. “At the same time, they need to be looked after and we want to look after them. We’re doing the best we can to maintain the service levels as far as our schedules are concerned by reducing our overhead.

But the other option is to reduce runs, which hurts people even more, I think.”

Back in the Interior, the province agreed to provide the BC Bus North service on an interim basis and federal funding covering half the costs expires at the end of March 2021. BC Transit led a competitive procurement process for service providers on the current routes and the request for proposals closed in August.

The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement that the contract is being finalized and additional information will be available in the coming weeks.

There will be no disruption to the current BC Bus North service, it said.

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg lays out ‘metaverse’ vision at developers event

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Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg said privacy and safety would need to be built into the metaverse, as he opened the company’s annual conference on virtual and augmented reality on Thursday.

Facebook continues to battle criticism over its market power, its content moderation practices and harms linked to its social media platforms. The tech giant, which reports about 2.9 billion monthly users, has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years from global lawmakers and regulators.

In the latest controversy, whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-sees-safety-cost-whistleblower-says-2021-10-25 leaked documents which she said showed the company chose profit over user safety. Zuckerberg earlier this week said the documents were being used to paint a “false picture.”

The metaverse, a term first coined in a dystopian novel three decades ago and now attracting buzz in Silicon Valley, refers broadly to the idea of a shared virtual environment which can be accessed by people using different devices.

Zuckerberg has increasingly been promoting the idea of Facebook, which has invested heavily in augmented and virtual reality, as a “metaverse” company https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-sets-up-new-team-work-metaverse-2021-07-26 rather than a social media one.

The CEO, speaking during the live-streamed Facebook Connect event, gave examples of privacy and safety controls that would be needed in the metaverse, such as the ability to block someone from appearing in your space. Zuckerberg is betting that the metaverse will be the next big computing platform, calling it “the successor to the mobile internet.”

The whistleblower documents, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, show internal research and employee discussions on Instagram’s effects on the mental health of teens and whether Facebook stokes divisions, as well as its handling of activity around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and inconsistencies in content moderation for users around the globe.

The company gave a slew of updates for its VR and AR products. It said it would this year launch a way for people using its Oculus VR headset to call friends using Facebook Messenger and for people to invite others to a social version of their home, dubbed “Horizon Home,” to talk and play games as avatars.

Facebook also said it would introduce a way for Oculus Quest users to use different 2D apps like Slack, Dropbox and Facebook while in this “Horizon Home” VR space.

The company, which began a beta test of its virtual meeting spaces “Horizon Workrooms” earlier this year, said it was working on ways of customizing these with company logos and designs and said it would be bringing more work capabilities into consumer Quest devices. It also announced new fitness offerings for Oculus Quest users.

Facebook said this week that its hardware division Facebook Reality Labs, which is responsible for AR and VR efforts, would become a separate reporting unit and that its investment in it would reduce this year’s total operating profit by about $10 billion.

This year, Facebook created a product team focused on the metaverse and it recently announced plans to hire 10,000 employees in Europe over the next five years to work on the effort.

Facebook also said it would run a $150 million education program aimed at helping AR and VR creators and developers.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York and Sheila Dang in DallasEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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Shopify’s revenue rises in run-up to key holiday season; shares up

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Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify Inc reported a 46% rise in quarterly revenue as consumer spending “normalizes” after a year of a pandemic-fueled online shopping frenzy, sending its shares up 9%.

The widespread shift to e-commerce at the height of the pandemic had brought a wave of new business to Shopify, which provides infrastructure for retailers to set up their stores online and generates revenue mainly through subscriptions and merchant services.

However, on a call with analysts, Shopify executives flagged “pressures in supply chain” for the key holiday shopping season.

Companies across the globe have sounded alarm bells on supply issues that have pushed costs higher and made some products scarce.

Shopify raked in billions of dollars over the past year, growing quarterly revenue by over 90% in four of the last six quarters.

It has been able to maintain a healthy growth rate even as people stepped out of their homes and bigger rivals like Amazon.com Inc bolster their offerings to retain customers.

“The strength of Shopify’s flywheel was on display within the more normalized spending environment we saw this past quarter, as more merchants used more of our platform to start and grow their businesses,” said Shopify’s finance chief, Amy Shapero.

The company’s subscription solutions revenue jumped by 37% to $336.2 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30.

Analysts are optimistic about Shopify’s business model, which is driven primarily by mom-and-pop stores.

“Shopify was a high-growth company long before COVID, and it’s going to be a high-growth company after the pandemic tailwinds fade,” said Samad Samana, analyst at Jefferies.

The company’s total revenue was $1.12 billion, narrowly missing expectations of $1.14 billion, according to Refinitiv data. Its adjusted profit of 81 cents per share also came in below an estimate of $1.18.

(Reporting by Richard Rohan Francis and Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Maju Samuel)

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