Welcome to the September edition of Atlantic Transport News.
Here’s a look at what you’ll find in this edition:
- Maritime Bus resumes 7-day/week service
- PEI transit sees record ridership, new funding expected
- Marine Atlantic vessel issues result in Argentia service cancellations
- WestJet suspends some direct flights to Atlantic Canada
- Transit staffing woes continue – Halifax scales back ferry service
- TAA holds first ever Newfoundland meeting
MARITIME BUS RESUMES 7-DAY/WEEK SERVICE
The gradual return of Maritime Bus services across the region continues, after the dramatic scaling back that took place during the pandemic. Heading into September, Maritime Bus announced that Saturday service would be returning on routes that normally ran daily, bringing the operation up from 6 day a week to 7 day a week service. The move was prompted by strong response to the return of Saturday service for the Labour Day weekend, and sees travel options on routes throughout the region now back to near what they were before the pandemic.
PEI TRANSIT SEES RECORD RIDERSHIP, NEW FUNDING EXPECTED
PEI’s transit service has seen a record year for ridership in 2022, a surge buoyed by a general return to workplaces, high fuel prices, and no doubt PEI’s ambitious “Toonie Transit” program. T3, the transit service’s operator, saw 77,000 passengers fares for July in Chalottetown, the highest since October 2019 when they saw around 74,000. Ridership in rural areas across the island has also seen a surge, and the operator has found challenges in accommodating the volume of passengers on the existing fleet.
Now, it seems the government of PEI is poised to announce increased funding for the transit service, and new larger buses are on the way: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-bus-transit-high-demand-1.6575207
MARINE ATLANTIC – VESSEL ISSUES CAUSE CANCELLATION OF SOME ARGENTIA CROSSINGS
Mechanical issues with the MV Highlanders have caused Marine Atlantic to cancel several North Sydney-Argentia crossings through September, leaving passengers scrambling to find alternative travel options. With the MV Highlanders out of service, Marine Atlantic has moved the MV Atlantic Vision to the Port aux Basques service, typically the busier of the two routes. Ferry passengers have been forced to shift to available crossings on the Port aux Basques service, a challenge with busy traffic continuing, or make different travel plans. It is not yet clear when the Highlanders will return to service, and with limited time left in the seasonal Argentia service, it’s quite possible that the remainder of the season will end up scrubbed.
WESTJET SUSPENDS SOME DIRECT FLIGHTS TO ATLANTIC CANADA
Air traffic into Atlantic Canada has slowly built back up over the last year, but recent news from WestJet will once again limit the number of options available to travellers in the region. WestJet has announced that flights between Halifax and Montreal will be suspended as of Oct. 28, and flights to Ottawa and St. John’s will be suspended in early January. This follows a previous announcement that WestJet would not be providing winter services Charlottetown, Fredericton, and Sydney. These decisions follow part of WestJet’s effort to concentrate more of their fleet on services in western Canada, part of a refocusing effort that the airline announced earlier in the summer. The decision will leave passengers in Atlantic Canada with fewer options, and raises questions about the future of some of WestJet’s seasonal services, like their direct trans-atlantic services from Halifax – particularly as the airline has paused acquisitions of wide-body aircraft, focusing instead on narrow-body regional planes.
TRANSIT STAFFING WOES CONTINUE – HALIFAX FERRIES SCALE BACK SERVICE
The continuing combination of labour shortages, absences, and challenging working conditions have left transit agencies across the board facing ongoing issues with maintaining sufficient staffing levels to operate their full services. In the latest such development, Halifax Transit was forced to scale back afternoon service on the Halifax-Alderney (Dartmouth) ferry service, operating on a half hour schedule instead of the normal 15 minute frequency.
The head of the union representing Halifax Transit employees warns that this trend is likely to continue, as operators are forced to work excessive overtime to compensate for staffing shortages: https://halifax.citynews.ca/local-news/transit-union-head-warns-that-service-disruptions-likely-to-continue-5733069
TAA HOLDS FIRST EVER NEWFOUNDLAND MEETING
On September 12, TAA past-president Ted Bartlett was able to arrange a first ever in-person meeting of TAA’s “Newfoundland caucus”, with a lunchtime meeting in St. John’s. Those in attendance discussed Newfoundland issues including gulf ferry rates, transit in the NE Avalon, trans-island motorcoach service, and lack of overseas flights from YYT. Here’s hoping this is the first of more such meetings to come!