New regional bus service for students

Acadian Coach Lines is shutting down the regional bus service Nov. 30, but not all students are aware a new service is taking over.

“I’m really worried about finding a ride home,” says Harrison Makohoniuk, a student at Dalhousie University. “It’s my main way to get back to Moncton. Without the bus, you’re stuck in Halifax or at the mercy of others.”

Students have options such as the shuttle service, or carpooling.

Makohoniuk was relieved to learn Maritime Buses and its affiliated companies Trius Tours Ltd, Prince Edward Tours Inc. and WTS Bus Charters Inc. have received approval from the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board as well as the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board to provide bus service to P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia starting Dec. 1.

Mike Cassidy, chief operating officer of Maritime Buses, expects a smooth transition in bus service for Acadian Lines customers.

But fewer riders and higher costs have made it impossible for Acadian Bus Lines to cover costs, says Denis Gallant of Acadian Lines’ parent company, Groupe Orléans Express. Maritime operations have lost $12-million since 2004.

Acadian Coach Lines applied to the Nova Scotia Utilities and Review Board asking permission to drop community bus service requirements in unprofitable areas in 2004, but the review board denied the company’s request.  Instead, Acadian Lines was granted fare increases but weren’t able to restore profitability to their regional bus service.

Cassidy says he can operate affordable regional bus service as well as make a profit. He is a chartered accountant by profession, and an assistant professor of financial accounting and entrepreneurship at the University of Prince Edward Island. He is experienced in motor carrier operations and has started three different commercial motor coach companies. Maritime Bus is part of the Coach Atlantic Group of Companies incorporated in 2005.

According to documents filed before the Nova Scotia Public Utilities Review Board, Coach Atlantic Group generated $11-million in gross revenues last year has $14-million in capital investment, 175 employees, a fleet of 42 motor coaches, 22 transit vehicles and 28 other vehicles.  The company operates maintenance facilities in Dieppe, Saint John, Charlottetown and Halifax.

New services

Maritime Buses plans to run a maximum of five buses a day between Moncton and Halifax beginning Dec. 1 as part of a regional bus service. A one-way fare to Moncton is estimated $48.00 — a ten cent increase over Acadian Coach Lines’ existing fare. Buses departing Halifax for Moncton are tentatively scheduled at 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m, 1:00 p.m, 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Cassidy’s message to students relying on the bus service between these two cities is,”Don’t worry! Study for your exams – we’re gonna get you home and back to university.”

He is offering students a 15 per cent discount on fares, online ticketing, a customer loyalty program and free Wi-Fi on coaches in 2013.

Maritime Buses is in the process of negotiating stops on or near university-serviced routes as well as making stops at airports and train stations. The company plans to have its fares and route schedules posted on its website by Nov. 26. Students relying on bus service for return travel to university after the winter break still have the option to travel by bus.