Bus users slam proposed fare increase

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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A DRL Coachlines bus sits idle on a parking lot at the rear of a repair garage on Vanguard Court in the east-end of St. John’s. — Telelgram file photo

Some DRL Coachlines users are disappointed by a requested fare increase for the provincial passenger bus service.

As reported in The Telegram Oct. 27, the company has applied to the Public Utilities Board for an across-the-board increase of about 18 per cent for all of its passenger fares.

A ticket from St. John’s to Corner Brook would go from $95 to $112; St. John’s to Grand Falls-Windsor would go from $68 to $80; and from St. John’s to Port aux Basques would go from $117 to $138.

Manager Jason Roberts said the proposed fare hike — the first one since 2005 — is due to rising labour costs.

“It’s reflective of the times. Extra costs, extra expense to operate and to make sure that we have good people operating where we operate, to carry out a good job for us and to be able to reflect that into their salaries and wages. The biggest point is labour costs,” he said last week.

But users of the service say the fees will have them looking for alternate arrangements. Wendy Rose, a student in Stephenville for the last year and a half, would see an increase from $102 to $120 from St. John’s (before a student discount rate of about $10).

“Say you’re travelling with one other friend in a car — not only will you cut off at least four hours, but you’ll also spend only $50 in gas,” she said.

“I know, obviously, a bus takes a hell of lot more gas than a Mazda 3, but I’ve been on that bus so many times that it’s completely full. And you think about it, and it’s like, ‘There’s probably 10 grand worth of fare on here.’ There’s no way it costs that much money to get across this island.”

Rose acknowledges that the price of car pooling doesn’t take into account the cost of the vehicle, but still feels there’s not enough value now, let alone before the fare increase.

“What are the costs being used for? What is my $92 going towards? Is it going towards ‘Tuck Everlasting’ that they rented on DVD? Or the Smurf movie that they’re going to play four times? Yeah, the student rate — oh my god, $10, wonderful. But for me, getting a hundred-dollar bus across and a hundred dollars back, that’s a third of my rent for the month.”

Another student in Stephenville, Joe Kielley, said DRL is his only method of transportation across the island.

“I think it’s unjustified,” he said. “It’s just enough of an amount to be an inconvenience, and it’s not enough of an amount for it to be justifying any big hike in prices that they have to deal with on their end.” From a student’s point of view, he said, every dollar counts.

Despite their opposition to any rate hike, neither student submitted comments to the board, which was accepting them until Friday afternoon. Roberts told The Telegram last week he hadn’t heard any complaints about the proposed hike, details of which were posted in the newspaper and on buses.

“My schedule as a student has been far too busy for me to have any free time to be able to deal with that, ironically enough,” said Kielley.

“I’m the kind of person who’s probably affected most by something like this, as a college student, and I’m also the one who doesn’t have the time to sit down and write a formal letter of complaint or comment to them.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: The Telegram, DRL Coachlines, Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Stephenville, Corner Brook, Port aux Basques

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Recent comments

  • Jack
    November 05, 2012 - 07:30

    Many provinces require regulatory approval for bus rate hikes, and in some cases, even bus routes themselves. Thought that regulatory abuse was bad in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are worse. In the case of Nova Scotia, bus operators don't just need approval for rate hikes, but also bus routes themselves. This tight regulation was a reason why Groupe Orleans Express and Acadia Lines stopped providing their inter-city bus service in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

  • Jacob
    November 04, 2012 - 17:13

    DRL can charge whatever they want - prices are based on market demand. It's time for another company to start operating and give them competition. It's the only way they will be forced to lower their fees.

    • david
      November 04, 2012 - 21:36

      Here's how you know that it is not "time" for another company to start a competing service: Because no such company is doing so.....simple as that. If and when a company announces such a thing (I would not hold my breath, FYI), we will all know then that it is "time" for it. Until then, it will remain being some time before that.

  • SR
    November 04, 2012 - 09:19

    A pice increase doesn't bother me as much as my 10 year old Son not being allowed to get a student discount--he travels often on DRL to visit Family in St.Johns-we pay 33.00 plus and additional 20.00 for “supervision” by an attendant-which again I don't mind-but how is it that,he would not be able to take advantage of the student discount?!...DRL-its time you take a closer look and provide a little break to your loyal cutomers as well....frequent user discount could even help !! All the same, the girls and drivers are marvelous and my Son just loves travelling with them!

  • Brett
    November 04, 2012 - 06:44

    The comments made in the article are legitimate though. For services that have to justify their cost of use to a public board: What is the operational cost of sending a vehicle across the island? What are the fixed costs for running the company? What is the depreciation on a bus annually? What is the cost and replacement policy for buses? What is the average volume of riders per trip to select destinations? What is the volume of low income/student/senior users that are given preferred pricing (avg. per bus)? What are the most profitable routes/least profitable? The price increases always seem a little bit like the cross border excuses. All retailers say they have to have much higher costs than the US because of shipping - yet they're not willing to open their books up or give actual costs to show that that's really the case...

  • AlbertaNewfie
    November 04, 2012 - 06:22

    Here in Alberta I can go twice as far for half as much on either the greyhound or for a little more the red arrow. The greyhound and red arrow both offer FREE wifi and the red arrow offers drinks and snacks, and an on board movie. What does the DRL offer... Twice the time to get across the island? And a student discount of $10.00?! WOW the savings.... Please... At least make the trip worth the price hike

  • meme
    November 04, 2012 - 01:22

    try having a car payment!! get over it!!

  • David
    November 03, 2012 - 14:43

    This is a service BUSINESS....not a PUBLIC service, or a GOVERNMENT service, or a FREE service. Is no one here familiar with anything that is not controlled by government?! If you don't agree with the proice of beans at the grocery store, what do you do? You simply don't buy the beans....you do not picket the grocery store, expecting the government to impose a pricce for beans. Well, actually, Newfoundlanders likely would do just that.....carry on.

  • Poor Student
    November 03, 2012 - 10:47

    "Booo hoooo. I'm goin' to have to drink one less beer a month." Welcome to the real world.