Atlantic Transport News – July 2021

Welcome to the July edition of Atlantic Transport News!

Here’s a look at what you’ll find in this edition:

ELECTRIC FERRIES PLANNED FOR HRM

A look at the proposed new ferry routes under Halifax’s Rapid Transit Strategy. The first route from Mill Cove to downtown Halifax got a major boost in the past month, with funding from all levels of government to move the project ahead. GRAPHIC – Halifax Regional Municipality

Halifax Transit has received a major boost to one of their rapid transit plans, as all levels of government have stepped in with funding to move ahead with a plan to launch a fast, electrified ferry service from Bedford into downtown Halifax. Halifax Transit had announced the plan as part of their Rapid Transit Strategy, and in June the federal, provincial and municipal governments announced funding support to move the project toward becoming reality.

The full project, which will involve the construction of new ferry terminals, replacement of the downtown Halifax terminal, and the purchase of new vessels for the service, is estimated to cost $134.5 million. An initial $3.3 million study to plan and engineer the service will be supported by $1.1 million from the province of Nova Scotia, $1.3 million from the federal government, and another $917,000 from the Halifax Regional Municipality. This phase of the project is expected to be complete in 2022, with hopes that the ferry service will be able to launch in 2024.

In a separate announcement, the HRM announced a tender for design concepts for the rebuild of the downtown terminal and the design of the new Mill Cove terminal. The downtown terminal will need to be expanded significantly to accommodate the new electric vessels planned for the service, and the Mill Cove terminal will need to include bridges across the CN rail line.

A fast ferry service has been proposed a number of times over the years as a solution to traffic congestion on the Bedford Highway, and as a way to provide a more efficient public transit connection into the downtown core. When recent attempts at commuter rail fell through, the ferry service has again risen to the top as a viable option, promising travel times to downtown that can beat driving even at off-peak times, and far exceed anything that is possible by car or bus during peak rush hour. With the new addition of exploring an all-electric ferry, the service is even more attractive to multiple levels of government that are prioritizing a shift to clean, sustainable public transportation options. All being well, this will turn out to be the first step in an important expansion of Halifax’s transit network.

-Tim Hayman

ATLANTIC BUBBLE OFF TO A SHAKY START – AT LAST!

Traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see on the Trans-Canada Highway near Amherst NS as protesters expressed their displeasure with more stringent provincial travel restrictions imposed just days before the 2021 version of the Atlantic Bubble was launched. This year there’s less consistency among the provincial governments, so travellers would be wise to check the rules in advance before attempting to cross provincial boundaries. PHOTO – RCMP on Twitter

It will be a bit different from last summer’s successful formula, but the 2021 version of the Atlantic Bubble is finally up and running. Postponed several times, the arrangement permits travel (with a few restrictions) among the four provinces, without the requirement to self-isolate. The four governments had evident difficulty in reaching a consensus, perhaps due in part to the presence of two new premiers in the mix this year. In any event, it did not come together without a rather public difference of opinion between the premiers and chief medical health officers of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick – one that resulted in a protest blockade of the Trans-Canada Highway near Amherst that required RCMP intervention, and got the local MLA booted from the NS PC caucus over her apparent role in the illegal activity.

With the rapid acceleration of COVID inoculations throughout the region and a steep decline in active cases during June, the travel outlook is certainly looking brighter for the summer of 2021. As of July 1, Nova Scotia was reporting 51 cases, down from 369 a month earlier; New Brunswick had 24 compared to 142; NL had just five, a drop from 90; and PEI had only one, having gone for over three weeks during June without a single new case being reported. Nonetheless, visitors to the Island this year must apply online for a “PEI Pass” prior to arrival. That’s just one of many variations in the rules among the provinces, so travellers would be well-advised to check in advance before hitting the road to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

VIA RAIL PREPARES TO RESUME OCEAN SERVICE – BUT IT WON’T BE THE SAME

When the post-pandemic Ocean returns, among the missing amenities will be the iconic Park-series domed observation cars. Designed to operate in the forward-facing direction only, they can no longer be turned at Halifax. VIA hasn’t yet provided full details of future train consists, but we will soon find out when a train makes its way to Halifax for the service resumption. PHOTO – Ted Bartlett

It’s been a long 17 months, but VIA Rail’s Ocean service is finally returning to the Maritimes – even if it won’t look quite the same as it did when the last train departed in March of 2020. VIA has just announced that the Ocean will resume its operations from Halifax on August 11, 2021, with a single weekly departure in each direction.

https://media.viarail.ca/en/press-releases/2021/rails-ocean-service-gradually-resume-starting-august-11

The first train will depart Halifax on August 11th, and the first eastbound trip will depart Montreal on August 15th; this will make for a schedule featuring Wednesday departures from Halifax and Sunday departures from Montreal, presumably following the same timetable as before the pandemic. VIA has labeled this a “gradual” resumption of service, and expressed optimism that additional frequencies will follow shortly; at the time of writing, an advisory on the VIA website shows tri-weekly service resuming in October, but this is always subject to change.

Consistent with trains like the Canadian that have been operating up to this point, the Ocean’s on board service offering will be much different during the first days of operation. Both Economy and Sleeper classes will be offered, in a mix of Renaissance and HEP1 stainless steel equipment, but passengers will not have free movement throughout the train. Sleeper passengers are asked to stick to their rooms for the duration of the trip, and Economy passengers to stay at their seats aside from trips to the washroom, or presumably stretch breaks at longer station stops. Passengers must wear masks on board, in keeping with federal requirements, except when eating or drinking or when in their own private rooms. Food service will be provided by cart to Economy passengers, and by room service to sleeper passengers – no meals in the dining car, for now. There will also be no lounge access for the time being, and while a Skyline dome may eventually be included in the consist, there won’t be one for the time being. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, all of these restrictions are subject to change as the situation evolves.

A special deadhead train will soon head east to ferry equipment from Montreal to Halifax to allow for crew training and the first departure from Halifax (*UPDATE: This deadhead train arrived in Halifax on the morning of July 13th). With the service shut down for such an extended period, quite a number of crew members have no doubt chosen to take retirement or have found other employment, so new on board crew training will be essential. Once this consist heads east, we should finally get a look at the new incarnation of the Ocean, now that the train cannot be turned. We expect to see a hybrid hodge-podge of Renaissance and HEP equipment, with baggage cars on both ends and no Park car, on account of the need to run the train in reverse for the return trip.

Regardless of the changes to the train, it is still a positive sign to see VIA’s return to the region, and TAA will continue to advocate for a full service resumption as soon as possible, and further improvements moving into the future.

VIA’s return to Halifax – on July 13, 2021, a full 16 months after the last train #15 departed on March 13, 2020, VIA equipment has at last returned to Halifax. With the locomotives back to back and the new bidirectional consist in tow, this consist will be used for on board crew training over the next several weeks, and depart Halifax as train #15 on August 11th. PHOTO – Tim Hayman

“OPEN WITH AN ASTERISK” – A DIFFERENT SUMMER AT MARINE ATLANTIC

MV Atlantic Vision will be making fewer appearances at Argentia this summer. Pandemic precautions have reduced the maximum passenger numbers to 300 per crossing, and a reduced level of customer amenities will be offered. PHOTO – Ted Bartlett

More than two weeks delayed from the originally planned date, MV Atlantic Vision docked at Argentia NL on the morning of July 5, marking the launch a scaled-down 2021 seasonal service. Although it is a significant improvement over 2020 when the route did not operate at all, the Vision will be sailing this summer under the dark cloud of COVID-19. Consequently, many of the onboard amenities that had helped make the trip a special travel experience in recent years won’t be offered. And, there will be only two weekly round trips instead of the usual three.

Colin Tibbo, Marine Atlantic’s chief information officer and acting vice-president of customer experience, says there is sufficient flexibility in their operational plan to allow for a third return crossing should demand exceed expectations. But for now the departures from North Sydney will be at 1730 ADT on Sunday and Wednesday only, sailing from Argentia at 1700 NDT on Monday and Thursday. To allow for social distancing there will be a limit of 300 passengers per crossing, which means much of the auto deck space will be empty. Most of the passengers are expected to be in cabin accommodation, and Mr. Tibbo notes that demand for private rooms is stronger than ever. In fact, he senses a trend where this is a make-or-break condition for many prospective customers. However, the good news for unberthed passengers in lounges is that they will be sufficiently spaced so that wearing of masks will not be required once they are seated.

The popular buffet dining option on the Vision has fallen victim to the pandemic – perhaps permanently – and the upscale dining room experience will also not be offered this year. The only alternative to the ship’s rather small snack bar will be a light meal service available in the bar lounge area.

Mr. Tibbo said the company did not want to cancel the Argentia run again this year, despite the pandemic uncertainty, because they consider it to be an important part of their summer service offering. He noted that, despite the limited amenities, the initial July 4 departure was booked to 98% of its reduced passenger capacity a few days prior to sailing, which attests to the popularity of the seasonal route. The online “rolling schedule” that now allows customers to reserve up to 16 months in advance shows a return to three weekly crossings in 2022.

A similar passenger limitation applies to the year-round North Sydney-Port aux Basques route, where there are a minimum of two daily sailings. Public health measures are likewise in effect, and passenger amenities have been reduced accordingly. Commercial drivers are now berthed in single-occupancy cabins, which places additional pressure on accommodations aboard the Blue Puttees and Highlanders. The volume of commercial traffic hasn’t been significantly affected during the pandemic, and passenger bookings as of early July were running between 30 and 40 percent higher than corresponding dates in 2020.

Customer expectations for Marine Atlantic appear to have adjusted somewhat because of COVID-19, just as they have elsewhere in the transportation and hospitality industries, but Mr. Tibbo expects they will become higher with the passage of time. He’s reluctant, however, to predict timelines for the return to a higher level of customer amenities.

“We’ll see how it unfolds,” he says, “For now, we’re open – with an asterisk!”

-Ted Bartlett

MARITIME BUS BEGINS SIX-DAY OPERATION; DRL SOLDIERS ON

After a financially-challenging winter and spring, maintaining service only three times a week, Maritime Bus increased to a daily-except-Saturday schedule at the end of June. Owner Mike Cassidy is looking ahead to better days, but there’s still no indication of any federal support for a national integrated motorcoach network. PHOTO – Ted Bartlett

With the rejigged Atlantic Bubble now in effect, Maritime Bus owner Mike Cassidy is looking ahead to better days – but he finds it hard to be optimistic. In anticipation of increased travel, the company bumped its schedules up to six days a week effective June 23, but uptake has been very slow, with three different reopening plans in the Maritime provinces having a dampening effect on ridership.

There’s been no response to date to the industry’s urgent pleas for federal support and a modest financial commitment to help rebuild a national intercity motorcoach network in the wake of Greyhound’s complete abandonment of Canadian service and the devastation of COVID-19.

“It appears as if there is no champion at the federal or provincial level,” Mr. Cassidy commented. “All I can say is that busing in Canada needs help.”

Meanwhile in Newfoundland, the orange DRL coaches are still plying their 900 km. route, serving 25 stops along the Trans-Canada highway from St. John’s to Port aux Basques. This despite a warning from owner Jason Roberts last month that financial pressures might force the company to cease operations. There’s been no word on the possibility of any assistance from the cash-strapped provincial government, along the lines of emergency aid extended earlier this year to Maritime Bus by Nova Scotia, PEI, and (after some prodding) New Brunswick.

But unlike elsewhere in Canada, there appears to be some onus on Ottawa to support DRL, which acquired the trans-island bus service from newly-privatized Canadian National in 1997. The so-called “Roadcruiser Service” had replaced the CN passenger train in 1969, and federal government responsibility to ensure continuing service at fares consistent with passenger rail elsewhere in Canada was acknowledged in the 1988 federal-provincial Memorandum of Understanding that provided for final abandonment of the Newfoundland Railway. However, none of the province’s six Liberal MPs have as yet weighed in on the issue.

SHUTTERED AIRPORTS REOPEN – WITH SOME NEW SERVICES

A water cannon salute greets PAL flight 905 on its inaugural arrival at Fredericton from Newfoundland on June 28. YFC was one of three Maritime airports to reopen late last month, after being closed since January. PHOTO – PAL Airlines

With the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, the aviation industry in Atlantic Canada is at last on final approach to what may prove to be a long period of recovery. Three regional airports in the Maritimes that had been completely devoid of scheduled passenger service for more than five months reopened for business in late June, and flight frequencies at others that had maintained limited service during the pandemic were noticeably increased. There were even some new destinations on departure boards around the region as airport spokespersons expressed cautious optimism.

Notable among recent developments was the return of scheduled service to Saint John, Fredericton and Sydney, which had been in hibernation since January. In addition to the return of Air Canada services to Toronto and Montreal, and WestJet flights to Toronto, YFC welcomed its first-ever direct service to and from Newfoundland with a tri-weekly flight by PAL Airlines to and from St. John’s with an intermediate stop at Deer Lake. In addition to the return of Air Canada service, discount carrier Flair Airlines was offering flights to Toronto from YSJ for as little as $49 one-way on a once-a-week 737 jet. At Sydney, WestJet resumed service to and from Halifax, while Air Canada was offering direct flights to Toronto.

St. John’s welcomed the return of direct service to Toronto by both Air Canada and WestJet, after an absence of several months. It would appear that Air Canada has no plans to resume local services between Halifax and various Maritime airports, but it looks like PAL is moving in to take up where the national carrier left off. PAL’s ambitious expansion plans also include offering service to Ottawa beginning in August. And by the time Porter Airlines returns to the skies in September, they may find the field a little bit crowded.

But make no mistake: air travel is by no means back to normal, or even approaching a new normal. The majority of the reinstated services are at greatly reduced frequencies – less than daily in many cases. Even the most optimistic air travel advocates will acknowledge that the road back will be a difficult one. Many restrictions remain in place, with most airports limiting access to their facilities strictly to passengers holding tickets. Most food and beverage concessions have not reopened, and masks must be worn continuously from entering the departure terminal until the exit on arrival.

There’s been no indication as to if or when overseas flights might return to Halifax Stanfield International Airport. For the foreseeable future, Atlantic Canadians destined to Europe or the UK will be obliged to fly several hours in the wrong direction before heading across the big pond.

NEW RURAL AND SMALL TOWN TRANSIT INITIATIVES UNDERWAY

A new fully-accessible transit service in Nova Scotia’s Pictou County launched on May 17, bringing public transportation back to New Glasgow and Stellarton after a 25-year absence. PHOTO – PC Transit

Residents of the Nova Scotia towns of New Glasgow and Stellarton are once again able to avail of public transit. Pictou County has not seen such a service since 1996, and the three-year pilot project should provide ample opportunity to prove that it is both needed and sustainable. 

Ridership numbers will determine if the service continues past the three-year trial, and promoters emphasize it is very important the community support the service by using it. 

The route is a one-hour bus loop through the two towns, but it’s been named Pictou County Transit in the hope that other communities will join in. 

The new, fully accessible, one-door-for-all, low-floor bus made its inaugural run on May 17.  The $190,000 capital cost was underwritten by the Province of Nova Scotia, which is also fully funding the first year of operations. Years two and three will see Stellarton and New Glasgow pay $50,000 and $100,000 annually, respectively. 

Meanwhile in New Brunswick, the community group Eastern Charlotte Waterways (ECW) has been awarded a rural transit pilot project grant by Environment and Climate Change Canada.  The federal funding will provide a new ride-share transportation system to the community of Blacks Harbour and the southwest New Brunswick region.

A media release says that issues of mobility and accessibility in rural communities are well documented, and Blacks Harbour is no exception. This pilot project aims to address these transportation issues by providing a fleet of electric cars for community-wide use. It will act as an on-demand door-to-door service. The new rideshare system which will launch in the fall of 2021, is the natural next step in working towards designing sustainable systems for rural communities in Charlotte County.

“ECW’s mandate has always been supporting sustainable projects that benefit local residents and the environment,” says Rick MacMillan, the group’s chair. “This investment will improve accessibility and the livelihoods of people in our community while raising the profile of the village to attract new businesses, visitors, and residents. Providing this climate-friendly ride-share program helps facilitate the community’s potential growth through connectivity.”

Blacks Harbour and the greater southwestern New Brunswick region has not had a public transportation option since the end of the RuralLynx project in 2020. With federal support, ECW will be able to operate an integrated public transportation model, built upon eight years of extensive research and reports from the Southwest Transit Authority Board as well as other community organizations both in and outside the province of New Brunswick. The announcement notes that the ECW team will be working collaboratively with key community partners that include the Charlotte County Multicultural Association and Vibrant Communities Charlotte County to ensure the pilot project is successful in providing all community members with an efficient, affordable and climate-friendly way to get around. This rural transit pilot project is described as an investment in social infrastructure that prioritizes rural communities and facilitates future growth.

FARES REMOVED FROM NOVA SCOTIA PROVINCIAL FERRIES

Passengers on the Englishtown Ferry in Cape Breton will no longer have to pay a fare, nor will users of any other of the intraprovincial ferries in Nova Scotia. PHOTO – Tim Hayman

Drivers in Nova Scotia will no longer have to pay to use any of the province’s seven intra-provincial ferry services, as the provincial government announced the permanent removal of ferry fees in late June. The ferry services, operated by Nova Scotia’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, include those at Englishtown and Little Narrows in Cape Breton, Country Harbour on the Eastern Shore,  Tancook and LaHave on the south shore, and Petit Passage and Grand Passage on Digby Neck.

When announcing the permanent removal of user fees, which had been waived in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, Premier Iain Rankin said the change will make transportation more “affordable and accessible for Nova Scotians”. Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines noted that the fees only covered a small percentage of operating costs, and were inefficient to collect and becoming an increasing burden to administer.

The province hopes that the removal of fees will help to encourage tourism by making more parts of the province more easily accessible, though it’s likely no coincidence that a provincial election is expected in the coming months.

Atlantic Transport News – May 2021

Welcome to the May edition of Atlantic Transport News!

Here’s a look at what you’ll find in this edition:

ATLANTIC BUBBLE OFF THE AGENDA – FOR NOW

A dark cloud of COVID uncertainty hangs over Atlantic Canada’s vital tourism industry for summer 2021. The reopening of the Atlantic Bubble has been postponed indefinitely by the pandemic’s third wave. PHOTO – NS Tourism

It was over before it even started. The now-famous Atlantic Bubble, designed to permit freedom of movement during the pandemic among the four Atlantic provinces without requirement to self-isolate, had been set to reopen on Monday, April 19. But COVID-19 began rearing its ugly head in the region once again, this time featuring more transmissible forms of the virus. On April 13 the Council of Atlantic Premiers agreed to delay the reopening by at least two weeks (to May 3rd) – with that date subject to change should new pandemic concerns emerge.

And emerge they did, with alarming suddenness. Faced with a record-breaking surge in new cases in Nova Scotia, the premiers quickly decided to defer any further discussion of the bubble until the threat of further outbreaks has been reduced, based on advice from the region’s chief medical officers of health. They agreed that the most recent outbreaks, accelerated by emerging variants of concern, made it necessary to maintain restrictions on non-essential travel within the region.

As of May 1, the active case count in the four provinces had soared to nearly five times the number reported at the beginning of April. Of the total 899 known cases, 713 were in Nova Scotia, up exponentially from the 24 a month previous. Furthermore, based on current trends, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Robert Strang was warning Nova Scotians to expect large numbers of new confirmed cases in coming days, because of a substantial backlog in obtaining test results.

Elsewhere in the region, New Brunswick’s total remained the same as on April 1 – 141 active cases. Newfoundland and Labrador stood at 33, up from just 4 a month previously, and PEI remained essentially unchanged with 12 known active cases. On the positive side, the vast majority of new cases in those three provinces were either close contacts of previously diagnosed patients or were travel-related. And even Nova Scotia’s case count on a per capita basis paled in comparison to that of Alberta – 72 cases per 100,000 people versus 289 per 100,000 in the hardest-hit western province.

Needless to say, transportation operators in the region continue to be severely impacted by the pandemic. At this writing it is unclear if the planned restart of some suspended air services would proceed on the previously announced timetable, although it was still possible to make early May bookings between Halifax and St. John’s on WestJet’s promised restored service. Fares, however, appeared to be substantially higher than pre-pandemic levels. New offerings recently announced by PAL Airlines were also still available for booking.

Meanwhile, Maritime Bus remains only a four-days-per-week operation, and VIA Rail has further extended the suspension of its Ocean until at least July 1. The train last ran on March 13, 2020. VIA hasn’t said so, but it appears a return to service is unlikely until travel restrictions between Quebec and the Maritimes are lifted.

CASE COUNT UPDATE:

As of Friday afternoon, May 7, the COVID-19 case count in Nova Scotia was continuing to soar, with 1464 active cases reported – more than double the number at the beginning of the month.  A further tightening of border restrictions was announced, effective May 10th. The active case count in NL also increased to 63, with concern expressed about the impact of travel. Numbers for NB and PEI remained essentially unchanged, at 140 and 10, respectively.

TRUCKS ONLY ON PEI-NS FERRY AS 2021 SEASON STARTS

MV Confederation is the only ferry running between Wood Islands PEI and Caribou NS this month, and the seasonal service is limited to large commercial trucks only because of COVID-19 restrictions.  PHOTO – Northumberland Ferries

The seasonal ferry between eastern Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia’s Pictou County will not be carrying any passengers for the first month as it commences its 2021 schedule. 

“Under the guidance of the Chief Public Health Officer in Prince Edward Island and the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Nova Scotia, service to travellers other than large commercial trucks (larger than 30’ in length) and their drivers is not yet permitted,” according to a notice on the Northumberland Ferries website.

The federally-funded service has operated since the early 1940s as an alternative to the constitutionally-guaranteed route between Borden PEI and southeastern New Brunswick (originally also a ferry, that was replaced by the Confederation Bridge in 1997). It normally makes multiple daily crossings for about eight months each year, starting in mid-spring. This year, however, there will be just four return trips five days a week, with no weekend service before June.

Company vice-president Don Cormier said they anticipate the scaled-down service will handle about 400 trucks a week. Despite the restrictions, there will be limited food service on board to make it easier for drivers to deliver their loads and get back to their point of origin without need to visit restaurants.

CHIGNECTO ISTHMUS REPORT EXPECTED THIS MONTH

VIA train 14 traverses the Isthmus of Chignecto at extremely close quarters with an exceptional Bay of Fundy tide in this 2017 photo. Protecting this vital transportation corridor against the effects of climate change is expected to be a costly proposition.

The long-awaited report on the vulnerability of the Chignecto Isthmus – the narrow low-lying land between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick – is now expected to be revealed by the end of May. The vital transportation corridor which carries both the CN Halifax-Moncton mainline and the Trans-Canada Highway is under threat from rising sea levels. During extreme high tides, the rail bed actually serves as a dyke that prevents the highway from being overwhelmed. The highway and rail line between them carry an estimated $20 billion worth of commerce each year, so it is a matter of considerable concern for the entire region. The report, commissioned early in 2020, is expected to propose several possible remedial alternatives, but the larger question will likely be how to fund the necessary work.

NEW INTERMODAL HUB PROPOSED FOR SAINT JOHN

A conceptual rendering of the proposed Lancaster Logistics Park development, featuring intermodal transportation (truck and rail), as provided by J.D. Irving, Limited.

It would seem that there’s a potent new player about to enter the domestic intermodal business in the Maritimes. J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) is proposing to redevelop the former Canadian Pacific railyard property in the Lancaster area of West Saint John into a new intermodal and logistics hub.

The property became a part of the JDI empire when CP Rail bailed out of operations east of Montreal nearly three decades ago, and the Irvings purchased the trackage between Brownville Junction, Maine, and Saint John. It has operated ever since under the NB Southern brand. But CP has evidently had a major  change of heart, and has reacquired the line from Montreal to Brownville, plus further trackage extending its reach to Searsport. The Port of Saint John is clearly important to CP these days as well, as it is shown on the map of destinations served. 

“This is an exciting growth opportunity for Saint John and the community,” says Wayne Power, Group Vice President, Transportation and Logistics, with JDI. “As intermodal transportation continues to grow, regions with robust and connected intermodal transportation networks will be in a strong competitive position and will enjoy the economic benefits that come along with that.”

According to a media release, the project is expected to reduce long-haul trucking, lowering New Brunswick’s carbon footprint, while creating 17 full-time railway positions and 30 full-time short-haul driver positions. Aligned with the Port of Saint John Modernization Project and City of Saint John’s goal to be a global transportation hub, the proposed logistics park would also improve supply chain and competitiveness for local industry.

It would appear that CN will soon have some serious competition in the domestic intermodal business. We expect to have further details in next month’s newsletter.

CODIAC TRANSPO PROGRESSING SLOWLY TOWARD NORMAL

Four new Nova buses have joined the Codiac Transpo fleet in the past month, but it won’t mean additional service as four older vehicles will be retired. A more modern fleet helps improve the quality of service, and lowers operating costs. PHOTO: Codiac Transpo

Service levels at Greater Moncton’s Codiac Transpo will soon take another step toward full service restoration, with the addition of 65 service hours per week. The changes will restore service to 75% of pre-pandemic levels by early June.

Moncton City Council unanimously approved the “phased approach” which will add midday service on feeder routes where there is presently a gap of several hours.  The Amalgamated Transit Union, although pleased at the added service hours, wants the return to full operations accelerated further. The ATU believes actual ridership is currently higher than Codiac Transpo data indicates, because less than half the fleet have traffic counters installed.

Meanwhile, the transit agency has made a number of routing changes in recent month in its effort to increase ridership and better serve the tri-communities. Operations manager Alex Grncarovski says the biggest step has been the creation of a single through route from the Champlain Place in Dieppe to Plaza Boulevard in Moncton’s north end, operating on a 13-minute headway for 16 hours each day, Monday through Saturday. Mr. Grncarovski, who previously worked for the Toronto Transit Commission, describes it as a “big city model on a small city budget” with a high-frequency trunk line interfacing with feeder routes resulting in faster service overall. Three former separate routes have also been combined into one, on a 30-minute headway. He says early numbers have been quite positive, although he acknowledges that people will need time to wrap their heads around the new schedules.

TAA’s 2021 AGM TO BE HELD ONLINE

A panel discussion at Transport Action Atlantic’s last in-person annual general meeting in May of 2019. This year’s event will be a virtual one, using the now-familiar Zoom platform.

COVID-19 has once again required Transport Action Atlantic to resort to technology for its annual general meeting.  In accordance with ongoing public health precautions, this year’s AGM will be held virtually using the ZOOM platform on Saturday, May 15, beginning at 1400.

The agenda includes annual reports and financial statements, appointment of an auditor, election of a board of directors, and any other business that may arise.

Current members of Transport Action Atlantic may nominate (with their consent) any other member in good standing for a position on the board. It is the board’s responsibility to choose the executive officers. Nominations should be made in advance of the meeting, and may be submitted by mail to the TAA Nominating Committee, P.O.Box 268, Dartmouth NS B2Y 3Y3, or by e-mail to donlinmacleod@ns.sympatico.ca.

Besides the required business, there will be a number of presentations focusing on critical public transportation issues in our region, with ample opportunity for questions and discussion. TAA members for whom we have an e-mail address will automatically receive an invitation to the meeting. As always, our AGM is open to the general public and the media, and anyone interested should request credentials by e-mail to atlantic@transportaction.ca.

PEI shuttle ends, Maritime Bus adds more runs

A bus with a maple leaf and Maritime Bus branding on the side
(Photo – Ted Bartlett)

After 20 years of carrying passengers to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, PEI’s Advance Shuttle has shut down. The company was purchased by Maritime Bus in 2012, who continued to operate it up until its final run on January 6, 2017. Maritime Bus had concluded that the cost of running the shuttle service in addition to their own bus services was no longer justifiable.

Despite losing the shuttle service, passengers travelling between Charlottetown and Halifax will be gaining additional bus options, as Maritime Bus has added additional late day departures in either direction. These extra buses will also benefit people along various parts of the route, by adding additional travel options later in the day.

While further bus options are a good thing, some passengers will no doubt be disappointed by the loss of the door-to-door service that the shuttle provided. For example, those going to Halifax for doctor’s appointments used to be able to get dropped off directly at the hospital, while they will now be dropped off at the bus station.

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