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.”