Many have wondered aloud whether the announcement by the region’s bus service to close was a subtle way of suggesting it needs subsidies.
At any rate, the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island governments have said they don’t want to take that route – which might help Nova Scotia answer the same question, since it would be an all-or-none deal.
Whatever the outcome, intercity bus service is crucial to a segment of the population. Many were devastated by the news Tuesday that Acadian Coach Lines would be shutting down operations by Nov. 30.
As it stands, the service is regulated in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, with Acadian Lines enjoying exclusivity on its routes. The hope is the profitable runs will subsidize the less-than-profitable. But what sounds like a guaranteed money-maker is a bit of a compromise as the service reportedly loses too much on the less-travelled routes.
That’s not surprising – nor is such a tradeoff unheard of elsewhere.
In Manitoba, for example, earlier this year, Greyhound – which had been receiving subsidies from the province – scaled back when the public money ran out on June 30, dropping 12 less-travelled runs. That province is hoping smaller independents will pick up any business in those sparser areas.
Likewise, the transportation ministers for P.E.I. and New Brunswick say any gap left as Acadian Lines rides off into the sunset would be better filled by private sector competition.
That’s often the best solution. Private operation also deals with the dilemma of being forced to provide service where there are few or no riders. You simply don’t do what bleeds money.
This is a huge loss – for the employees, but especially for those who rely on it: students, or people simply uncomfortable driving long distances.
We hope private investment will seize the opportunity. And it will be understandable if a new company concentrates on where the need is constant, rather than having to do backflips where no one is watching.