It's the end of an era in Saskatchewan.
May 31 turned out to be an emotional day outside of the Prince Albert STC bus depot. Number 902 was headed to Hudson Bay at 7:30 p.m., the last STC bus to depart any terminal in the province. As per the last provincial budget, STC busses would stop running at the end of the month.
Two security guards stood on either side of the doors into the bus depot, presumably to keep any planned protests in check. Media were not allowed to enter the building.
A third guard came forward, followed by long-time STC rider Jan Kurbis who clutched a tissue to dab tears from her eyes. She was taking bus 902 to Melfort; her home.
“I've been riding a bus for 47 years, since I moved to Melfort,” she said. “And now this, nothing. I can't believe it.”
Kurbis said she doesn't know how she'll make it to Prince Albert in the future. She hasn't heard of other companies offering transportations services, and she doesn't own a vehicle or drive. Now she feels stranded.
With her birthday coming in just two weeks, Kurbis doesn't want to end up begging for a ride to get back to P.A. She isn't sure that would work in the first place.
“Who's gunna do that?” she asked.
Roughly 20 people gathered to send bus number 902 off, waving and taking photos or videos on their cell phones. Among them was Prince Albert Northcote's NDP MLA, Nicole Rancourt.
“It's a really sad moment, it felt like coming to a funeral,” Rancourt said. “It's the end of an era and to see passengers so emotional taking their last trip, it was sad.”
Rancourt expressed concerns about the future of those who used STC to get around the province. She cited the Highway of Tears in B.C. as an example of what could happen with insufficient access to transportation.
“I've been hearing people saying they're going to need to find other forms of transportation which will be hitch hiking, or finding different rides which might not be safe,” Rancourt said. “I don't want to see any more missing and murdered individuals.”
Minister of Crown Investments Corporation and Prince Albert Carlton MLA previously told paNOW he doesn't believe the closure of the service will have a negative impact on the North. He said many groups have applied for operating certificates from the Highway Traffic Board.
STC will officially be sold-off in March, 2018. Sixteen of the 41 coach busses are set to return to bus barns in Regina and Saskatoon, where they will be checked over by mechanics and prepped for sale.
Before the last green and yellow bus departed to Hudson Bay, staff waved good-bye to each other one final time. One staff member embraced another as though he were family before stepping on the idling bus.
As bus 902 pulled out of the depot, the driver honked his horn three times at those gathered. He issued one final, longer blast as he cruised down 15th Ave. E. with the sunset in his rear view mirror, the last STC bus on a Saskatchewan highway.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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