The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1229, the union for Acadian Lines employees, is among many opposed to Acadian Lines’ request for a variance of a ruling issued by the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) on July 16th, 2010. Citing declining ridership and losses of over $1.6 million in New Brunswick since taking over SMT in 2004, Acadian Lines is asking the EUB to approve their request to not increase service on key corridor routes between Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton.
The union fears that if Acadian Lines does not expand its corridor routes as promised, eight drivers will lose their jobs. In 2009, Acadian told the ATU there would be no job losses as the company made cuts to services.
Glenn Carr, President and Business Agent for the ATU, says his members believe the company’s losses are related to “a lack of marketing skills… overall waste of revenues, bad faith labour relations, management practices… incompetent and wasteful dispatch decisions, establishment of isolated and antiquated depot locations, disjunctive management decisions, and disregard to the needs of the traveling public.”
In late October, ATU Local 1229 issued a statement concerning Acadian Lines’ moves, saying they had “deliberately misled the public and the Energy and Utility Board (EUB) at… previous hearings… The Company had no intentions to increase the corridor service but only to get the EUB approval and to avoid our opposition.”
In an application to the EUB last year, the quasi-judicial regulatory body for bus lines, Acadian requested that they be allowed to cut routes and reduce services on their rural routes in the province.
There was widespread opposition to the proposals to cut bus routes and reduce bus services from the Mayors of Miramichi, Bathurst and St. Stephen, the St. Thomas University Student’s Union, the UNB Students’ Union, the St. Andrews campus of the New Brunswick Community College, the Premier’s Council on Disabled Persons, the Conservation Council and many concerned citizens.
The EUB denied Acadian Lines’ application to cut several bus routes, however they did allow the route to be cut from St. Stephen to Bangor, Maine, and service to be reduced from seven to three days a week on two routes: Fredericton to Miramichi and Saint John to Bangor. Friday and Sunday service from Moncton to Charlottetown was also allowed to be cut and service was allowed to be reduced on the Fredericton to Rivière-du-Loup route.
Many of the same groups involved in the last EUB hearings on Acadian’s proposed cuts are again speaking out against Acadian’s request for a variance. In a letter submission to the EUB, the St. Thomas University Student Union suggested, “part of the decline in ridership could be due to negative publicity surrounding decisions to move the Fredericton bus station to a less accessible location and the application to eliminate entire routes.”
The Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons, also in a letter to the EUB, points out that “when Acadian requested a scheduling variance for a 2nd time, no changes [by increasing runs in corridor routes] had been implemented.”
The EUB has also received letter submissions in opposition to Acadian’s application for variance from Transport Atlantic, a public transportation advocacy group, the Mayors of St. Andrews and St. Stephens, and several citizens.
The Conservation Council says the EUB decision to permit Acadian Bus Lines to reduce service to regions of the province demonstrates the need for government involvement in providing public transportation. “We want the provincial government to establish a Crown agency to develop a public transportation network for New Brunswick over the next four years,” said Raphael Shay, Energy Coordinator at the Conservation Council.
“The Crown agency can look at models in sparsely populated areas such as Southeast Minnesota, where support from government has enabled the Semcac Community Action Agency to operate small buses to provide in and out of town transit. The provincial Crown agency could also help coordinate the various forms of transit in order to make transfers easier,” proposed Shay.
Intra-city bus services in Saskatchewan have been operated by a Crown corporation since 1946. The Saskatchewan Transportation Company, operating at arm’s length from the government, has 28 routes and services 275 communities.
When the EUB will reach a decision on Acadian’s variance request is unknown.