Maritime Bus owner wins 2019 John Pearce Award

Mike Cassidy, president and owner of Maritime Bus, (left) accepts the John Pearce Award for 2019 from TAA president Ted Bartlett.

Transport Action Atlantic has selected Prince Edward Island entrepreneur Mike Cassidy as the winner of the 2019 John Pearce Award. The citation was created by the association two years ago to commemorate the lifetime achievements in public transportation advocacy by Mr. Pearce, a founding father of TAA’s predecessor Transport 2000 Atlantic, a past president, and long-time member of the board. John passed away in Dartmouth NS on June 6, 2019.

The award is given annually to recognize an outstanding contribution to the public transportation cause. This year’s selection committee chose to recognize Mr. Cassidy primarily for his determined efforts to rescue and maintain scheduled intercity motorcoach service in the Maritimes. In the fall of 2012, his company stepped in where others had failed, and is now in its seventh year of successful passenger and parcel operation from Halifax and Sydney NS to Rivierè-du-Loup QC, serving most towns and cities in the region on a daily basis and providing onward connections to Quebec and Ontario. The citation also noted his success in providing urban transit in Charlottetown PEI, and his ongoing advocacy seeking government support for a national bus network in Canada, following the failure of Greyhound West.

Advocates have questions on National Railway Day

Transport Action Atlantic is asking why it is taking so long for VIA Rail and the Government of Canada to deliver on an outstanding promise to improve frequency of passenger rail services in the Maritimes. Today is National Railway Day – the anniversary of the last spike ceremony that marked completion of Canada’s continuous rail link from coast to coast on November 7, 1885.

“It’s a very appropriate occasion to pose this question,” says Ted Bartlett, president of the regional public transportation advocacy group, “and not just because it’s a date that was so important in the development of Canada’s nationhood. It was three years ago this week that VIA’s CEO unveiled a plan to reintroduce regional service within Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, using the same type of rail diesel cars (RDCs) that had been discontinued in January 1990 as part of sweeping cuts mandated by the Mulroney Government. His timeline called for the routes between Moncton and Halifax and Moncton and Campbellton to be operational by late summer or early fall of 2016.

“That goal, unfortunately, was not met. Neither were several other target dates subsequently offered. We’re still waiting, and VIA management is no longer even suggesting possible start dates. Furthermore, we understand that there will be no additional frequency or capacity offered during the holiday travel season this year, something that had become standard practice in recent years to augment the very limited schedule normally offered in this region.” Continue reading “Advocates have questions on National Railway Day”

VIA Rail’s 2017-2021 Corporate Plan: what’s in it for Atlantic Canada?

Rust spots are showing through on this Renaissance sleeper, a common sight on many of these cars in 2018. Corrosion has been the source of many problems with this equipment, and after only 15 years in service on the Ocean, VIA is already planning to retire the fleet in the next few years. (PHOTO – Tim Hayman)

[Originally published in the Spring-Summer 2018 edition of “The Bulletin”]

Early in 2018 VIA released their 2017-2021 Corporate Plan. These documents, released each year and looking ahead for the next five, offer a synopsis of the state of the railway and tend to provide insight into what VIA is looking at moving forward. In the last few years these plans have focused heavily on VIA’s need for new equipment, and some of the challenges (e.g. deteriorating on time performance on many routes, rising costs) and successes (e.g. ridership growth), as well as a look at their plans across the entire system. This latest corporate plan, which can be found in full online (http://www.viarail.ca/sites/all/files/media/pdfs/About_VIA/our-company/corporate-plan/CorporatePlan_2017-2021.pdf) has some specific items of interest for Atlantic Canada.

There is a blurb describing the operation of the Ocean, which has some new phrasing this year. It reads: “During the holiday season, VIA Rail adds extra departures.” That is a change from past years, which used past tense phrasing (e.g. last year it said “during the holiday season, VIA Rail added six extra departures”). This seems to imply that the holiday frequency expansion is now considered a standard annual practice. This is further confirmed in the following section. *EDIT: Since publication, we have learned that VIA will not be running any extra trains this holiday season. More details to come soon, but it seems a major factor this year is that the normal dates of operation fall rather optimally around the Christmas and New Years holidays. In any case, it is still a reduction of capacity, and disappointing news.*

Under “operational issues” for the Ocean, there is a notable recognition that VIA’s reduction of frequency on the Ocean has been problematic (italics added for emphasis): Continue reading “VIA Rail’s 2017-2021 Corporate Plan: what’s in it for Atlantic Canada?”