This isn’t a Vancouver story, but it’s an important one for anyone who cares about car-free transportation in Canada. A few days ago, Quebec’s Groupe Orleans Express announced it will cease Acadian Bus Lines operations, including intercity passenger transportation, in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in November.
Students, the poor, businesses, rural dwellers, and car-free Maritimers and travellers will be significantly affected by the absence of intercity transportation. Here are some news stories that describe the anticipated hardship:
Students and businesses react to Acadian Bus Lines closure (CTV News)
Acadian shut-down especially hard on rural areas (CBC News)
Poor, students to suffer from Maritime bus line closure (Toronto Star)
My sympathy rests first with residents of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI who will be deeply affected by the closure of Acadian Bus Lines but I’m also discouraged by the impact this will likely have on travel and tourism in these provinces.
As an almost-always car-free traveller, a lack of intercity transportation in a region usually forces me to choose a different destination unless I’m looking for an exclusively urban vacation in a city like Halifax where there is good public transportation. Generation Y is buying fewer cars and this leads me to think that there is an increased demand for, or at least some expectation of, reasonably good intercity transportation in North America. We want to leave the car parked and travel to places on trains and buses. If my website traffic is any indication of this desire, it peaks around summer weekends with searches like “bus to point roberts from vancouver,” “salt spring island without a car,” and “trains from vancouver to oregon.”
Fortunately in British Columbia, we have a decent intercity transportation system (it could always be better and more extensive) that allows us to reach places like Sechelt, Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park, Brackendale, Ganges, Penticton, and Parksville. I can’t imagine how small the province would seem if I didn’t have access to a wider world beyond TransLink’s coverage.
The Chronicle Herald reports that the closure of Acadian Bus Lines might not happen according to plan since Groupe Orleans Express states it is willing to meet with its unions and the provinces about the decision. The company previously halted service in New Brunswick and PEI when it locked out workers between December 2011 and May 2012. Groupe Orleans Express may still pull out of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI in the near future, but hopefully this won’t be the end of intercity transportation altogether in the affected provinces.