Councillor doesn’t want Metrobus competing with taxis for airport runs

Daniel MacEachern
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A St. John’s city councillor says he’s against adding a Metrobus route to the airport.

Tom Hann.

Earlier this month, city council discussed the possibility, as the St. John’s airport authority is reportedly in talks about adding a route.

But Coun. Tom Hann says it’s not a good idea, drawing on his time on the city’s transportation commission.

“The average cost of adding a route to anywhere in the city was about $190,000. That’s just operational costs,” he said, adding that the cost would vary depending on how long the route would be, how many stops it would have, and whether a special bus or extra staffing is needed.

Metrobus general manager Judy Powell told CBC earlier this month a dedicated airport route could cost as much as $450,000 and would require buses with luggage racks.

“My question is, should we be adding a quarter-million dollars to the operational cost of Metrobus, when we are subsidizing it now to the tune of 64 per cent?” said Hann, who said he doesn’t know if a route would pay for itself.

Hann also said he is concerned about competing with taxi companies.

“If we put on a route that would be subsidized by the taxpayers, say from downtown St. John’s to the airport, then that’s taking away business from taxi operators, and they’re not going to look too kindly on that, because it’s their livelihood,” he said.

Asked if the point of a transit service isn’t to provide a transportation alternative for people without cars, Hann said he didn’t think so.

“Yes, if you’re living in the city and you’re getting back and forth to work, you’re getting to your doctor’s office, you’re getting to the grocery store, getting to services that are required, that’s what it’s there for,” he said. “But it’s not to provide service to the airport, in my opinion.”

Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said it’s worth looking at, though.

“It would take a lot of planning, and it would take changes to some of the buses and so on in order to handle luggage. I wouldn’t rule it out entirely, personally,” he said. “If it could be done and if it could be worked out and funded properly, I think a bus service direct to the airport from one or two points could work. I recognize the concerns Coun. Hann has because he chaired the Metrobus commission for a number of years.”

A spokeswoman for the St. John’s airport authority declined an interview request from The Telegram, saying there aren’t any updates on the discussions with Metrobus on a possible route.

Twitter: @DanMacEachern

Organizations: CBC, Metrobus commission

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Recent comments

  • Mark Brown
    February 28, 2016 - 10:41

    Halifax also has a very nice and easy bus route from the airport to the city. If people want and need the convenience of taxi cabs, they will be there as well. A real bus route to the air port is vital for this city to feel growing, connected and expansive.

  • robert philcox Worthing UK
    February 22, 2016 - 01:43

    Winnipeg has a bus service airport to dtn. Calgary has a train service all for the convenience of the public It would seem Nld. is the odd man out. Presumably taxis are king in Nld. There are exceptions of course with ONE bus a day serving the rest of the country. Or you could fly ...but not dtn I think one bus an hour on a circuit would not be a lot to ask and certainly not $250.000.

  • robert philcox Worthing UK
    February 22, 2016 - 01:42

    Winnipeg has a bus service airport to dtn. Calgary has a train service all for the convenience of the public It would seem Nld. is the odd man out. Presumably taxis are king in Nld. There are exceptions of course with ONE bus a day serving the rest of the country. Or you could fly ...but not dtn I think one bus an hour on a circuit would not be a lot to ask and certainly not $250.000.

  • bevin ledrew
    February 14, 2016 - 06:30

    Hey How about this for an outragous idea? Let the private sector in - Allow for private bus operators to try and serve the airport - youknow, just like they do at real airports - with hotels providing courtesy shuttles and others providing "load and go" deliveries. The mentality of NL politicians is always directed towards the assumption that Government is the answer, regardless the question. Maybe the service could be provided without using taxpayer dollars - and maybe that way, budgets could be balabced and costs reduced.

  • Joe
    February 13, 2016 - 20:23

    Looks like Tom Hann is popular.

  • Kyle
    February 13, 2016 - 17:43

    This is ridiculous. Go to any other major city in the world, they have so much invested going to airports, i.e trains, shuttles, busses, etc. Why are we not emulating this. What is the first point of contact for people visiting NL? They come in through the airport and then make their way into the city. With their first point of contact they realize there is a major inefficiency here: underinvestment in transportation. You think you go to NYC, HK, and there are hundreds and hundreds of taxis waiting to take travellers? No, they have people using public transportation because it is cheaper, efficient, and convenient.

  • gab
    February 13, 2016 - 10:03

    Buses and taxi's operate in airports the world over with buses being the preferred option for people with lower incomes or anyone actually who just wants to save a few dollars. Why doesn't he stop the bs about competition and just cut to the chase which is the route being to expensive for the city to implement at this time?

  • Tony Strong
    February 13, 2016 - 06:30

    Metrobus needs to be overhauled, big time..especially in the route planning.. I know of several people who would love to use the bus to and from work, but..the schedule would add hours and hours each week..pity. big time consultations on route planning needs to be done are wide and over a long time to ensure everyone has their say and I'll bet the ridership will grow, if the listen, rather than tell...

  • Tony Strong
    February 13, 2016 - 06:26

    I don't for a moment believe the cost..It just seems like one way to not do something...but.. we have to remember. that St John's Airport still has the largest number of personal pick ups of any airport in Canada...other than workers, etc: I double that there would be a high ridership..but then you won't know until you try..because it's 2016...get it..

  • Audacity
    February 13, 2016 - 03:28

    Isn't the airport taxi service a revolving tendered bid on monopoly anyway? It's not like they get all the business, people get dropped off and picked up, and fly in and out and leave cars in the parking lot for days and weeks.... that's who would love the service, along with people who work around and in the airport. It's a part of the city that deserves the essential service and needs it to grow and flourish like any other area.

  • Think of the workers!
    February 13, 2016 - 03:24

    Everyone from baggage handlers to restaurant and retail workers to counter staff to flight crews who would rather not leave a car there for days or weeks or pay for 8 or more hours of parking might want the option of not driving or taking cabs or getting dropped off all the time. Also, I vote for the bus to go down by Holiday Inn, stop at CONA Prince Phillip Campus, then past Confederation Building stop at MUN where so many buses stop anyway, and terminate at Avalon Mall, lots of people would ride that route in both directions from the city anyway, even if they weren't coming from or going to the airport. A real express line for a change! I know it's hard to get in and out of the CONA campus, but it's not insurmountable.

  • Well Travelled
    February 13, 2016 - 03:01

    I've been in airports and used transit from Boston, Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, London Heathrow among others never saw a bus or a train modified in any way for carrying luggage, that's a red herring you're throwing there b'ys. Join the rest of the world if it's an international airport with millions of passenger movements, you have to have the transportation links. If you're being ridiculous you deserve ridicule. Once again, no one believes the stuff you are getting on with, take thine heads from betwixt thine buttocks, send a bus up there every half hour, done. Smell ya later.

  • Ww
    February 12, 2016 - 22:40

    Someone should tell Councillor Hann, that he works for the majority of the citizens of the city of St. John's NL., not taxi drivers, or the whims of the airport authority. Keith Collins brought in the Airport Improvement fee and doubled it to 30 bucks from 15 bucks within 5 yrs. Any bets on what is yet to come? Not a peep from council. Come on Tom , use what limited authority you have ,and block any Airport improvement fee and suggest a direct line to the Airport ,via Metro Bus. But , you won't, because that makes too much sense and your years of crying for fairness ,when you were on the outside looking in, is now exceeded by the council creed , of looking tough and steadfast , even though you know your wrong, and as a private citizen , you would look favourably towards a direct Bus line to the Airport , but unfortunately you cast yourself into politics and gave up on the letter writing ,that captured your voting public , and through a second try, put you into Council. Your principles , in my opinion ,over the years have been compromised!! In other words, the words most politicians hate to hear - you have changed!!

  • Em
    February 12, 2016 - 21:03

    It's offensive and incompetent for there to be no public transport serving an international airport. Luggage racks!? When has the airport rocket route in Toronto ever used luggage racks? Precisely never! What a load's a bus! There's space because it's a BUS. Plenty of people will still drive or use taxis - it's called procrastination and entitlement. So, where else do taxi services thrive but airports! Ugh...we can't afford this council hiding beneath its tiny little rock brains.

  • Ron
    February 12, 2016 - 20:24

    I took notice today of about twenty city buses chugging around town . All of them were huge with space for I assume around 30 people and the most I saw on any bus was 6 people ( most had two or three people ). I am sure that there are buses with more than 6 people but it points out that the buses are not used by a lot of people and I believe it is mainly because of the inconvenience and lack of speed. The last time I used a bus it took me over an hour to travel a route that I can do in a car in 10 minutes ( at that point I said never again ). With the lack of speed and the inconvenience of bus travel I believe that the only people who bother to use the bus are those who do not own a car. Since those people have a right to travel the only sensible thing to do is get rid of those huge cumbersome buses except on heavy traffic routes and replace them with smaller buses that can cover the same distance almost as fast as a car. This will never happen unless the people who run the service are replaced with more open minded people who have the ability to analysis the bus routes and place smaller buses where they are sufficient and make improvements to the routing. The people there now have been there far too long and are only interested in empire building.

  • Taxpayer
    February 12, 2016 - 19:15

    Can anyone say 'monopoly'? Most cities have bus service to the airport. Another instance of a self-serving councillor putting the taxpayer on the back burner so that over-priced taxis can milk the travelling public. Good bye Tom - you won't make it to council next time around

  • PUBLICtransport
    February 12, 2016 - 18:48

    Maybe they should reduce his salary to $15,000 and see if he can afford a cab to the airport next time he flies somewhere.

  • Jen
    February 12, 2016 - 18:21

    Jeez b'y, every other city I've lived in has had alternative transportation access to get to the airport. Not everyone can afford a car or pay for a cab fare across the city. This place is so backwards..

  • In
    February 12, 2016 - 17:53

    Competition is good for the economy and customers. The cost to hire a taxi is just not sensible. The public deserves a cheaper alternative.

  • Peter Quinlan
    February 12, 2016 - 16:48

    Time to get UBER here.

  • Bill
    February 12, 2016 - 16:41

    Not only are Hann's views out of touch, he represents much of the dysfunction at city hall. Last week he was upset about the leaked release of the ethics report. Today he is now on NTV News prejudging the Sunday meeting and suggesting a mediator is necessary or else call in Municipal Affairs. You think he will be part of the solution?

  • david
    February 12, 2016 - 16:34

    St. John's. The only city in the world with an elected councillor who is so oblivious to reality as to even verbalize such utterly idiotic, self-serving nonsense. Cab drivers of the world: Never mind Uber! Come live in NL, where you will be honoured and revered as gods.

  • Yvonne
    February 12, 2016 - 16:27

    For the love of God, most cities have Airport transportation/bus that does pickups & drop offs at the hotels. Surely all our city councillors/officials have travelled and most likely at some point were users of same. The City could charge half of what the cabs charge, sorry Cab companies if we weren't being gouged we would probably not care. So Mr. Hann we all are paying your salary!!!!

  • Yvonne
    February 12, 2016 - 16:18

    For the love of God, most cities have Airport transportation/bus that does pickups & drop offs at the hotels. Surely all our city councillors/officials have travelled and most likely at some point were users of same. The City could charge half of what the cabs charge, sorry Cab companies if we weren't being gouged we would probably not care. So Mr. Hann we all are paying your salary!!!!

  • Craig Lewis
    February 12, 2016 - 15:01

    Well isn't that too bad for the Councillor. Seems that they are there for the corporations and buddies again, and not for the people that elected them. Not to worry, for it won't be too much longer boys, and you will all be gone. :)

  • Taxpayer
    February 12, 2016 - 15:00

    Maybe the city can get a refund on those unused bike racks that are on all the buses. That just might be enough to purchase at least one luggage rack.

    • david
      February 12, 2016 - 16:36

      No more likely than any NL driver getting a refund from their car dealership on their indicator lights....all brand spankin' new, never been used. .

  • C
    February 12, 2016 - 14:32

    There was a job posting not long ago for a 20 hour a week job that doesn't pay much more than minimum wage at the new hotel by the airport. The ad specifically said "own transportation required as no public transit is available". You need to own your own car and be paying insurance to get a minimum wage job that doesn't even offer full time hours just because there is no bus servicing the area. you would be working that job just to cover insurance and gas. A bus to the airport would benefit a lot of people. To say otherwise is absolutely ridiculous.

  • Jane
    February 12, 2016 - 14:06

    With a few exceptions, the current city council seems to be showing themselves to be inept beyond belief. I understand, to some extent, the cautions around costs of adding an airport-servicing bus (given the recent disastrous budget- thanks, guys), but to suggest that no one could use a less expensive alternative to getting to the airport just illustrates once again how out of touch with its constituents this council really is. Get it together.

  • Jim H
    February 12, 2016 - 12:39

    Metrobus goes as far as Stravanger Drive no problem and that is far from being full. I have used it and there might be 10 to 15 people on it and that is early in the morning. I am sure at $2.50 a fare or $1.50 a fare for seniors would be good. Even at $10 it would be a bargain for sure. Most of those councilors don't even use the bus ask Tom Hann does eh come to work on a bus, most probably not. Make no wonder the city is in a mess and it will get worse. I guess a few taxi voters called and complained. Make it an issue and it will be a bus for the airport.

  • Mike
    February 12, 2016 - 12:21

    I read this story with great interest. I think Councillor Hann is out of touch with the realities of modern Canadian airport services if he easily dismisses having alternative transportation options for the St. John's International airport. With a quick Google search of airports serving Canadian cities of a similar population size, I find that all have alternative transportation links, including Halifax airport which is far from Halifax. Lots of people can't drive to and from the airport, please don't force them into taxis when many can't afford it. St. John's and surrounding communities should have higher aspirations for its regional international airport. I'm with Mayor O'Keefe on this one. The Airport Authority, regional cities and towns, and government need to consult with the public and others, assess options and develop a plan. But that's only my opinion.

  • Walter Mackey
    February 12, 2016 - 12:06

    Adding in a route to the airport is unheard of but having six Metrobus shuttles to an Ice Caps game makes sense.

    • John Jr. Smith
      February 12, 2016 - 15:54

      The Ice Cap shuttles do make sense, it's the only time I've actually seen a Metrobus full. That service might be the most logic route we get for the 65% funding provided by tax payers.

  • James
    February 12, 2016 - 12:04

    Hann might want to take note: MANY (most I would guess) people go to the airport for work, not pleasure... Many go regularly for business travel. Many go because they actually work there (imagine that?). So in Hann's view, we should all take taxis, just because, you know - taxis want more business?

  • Robin G.
    February 12, 2016 - 10:28

    The Metrobus should service all of the city and the city does include the airport. Taxpayers work at the airport if they can own a car or pay a taxi?? Councillor Hann has it all wrong.

  • Bill
    February 12, 2016 - 09:47

    It appears that anything proposed by the City or Metrobus involves empire building. Metrobus says it can't do the service without a half million dollar bus and an extra $190K route. Councillor Hann is backing up the taxi association; heaven help him when Uber arrives in town. If the powers that be really wanted to do something positive and progressive they could remove a couple of seats on a couple of busses, install a safe luggare rack, and add one stop on a route that already bypasses the airport each hour. If the option becomes popular, then look at adding a special bus and a separate route.

  • Chantal
    February 12, 2016 - 09:13

    By his logic, we should close Metrobus and let the taxi companies take over transit -- never mind the people who depend in it. The idea that former the Commission can't comprehend the point of a transit service isn’t to provide a transportation alternative for people without cars is bizarre. (I assume he has never depended on the bus) Whom is Hann working for, the public or the taxi firms whose monopoly at the airport is a licence for extortion?

  • SkepticalNewfoundlander
    February 12, 2016 - 09:06

    People without cars should be able to get around the city. I'm sure taxi drivers would love it if you shut down metrobus altogether. It isn't about them. You don't need luggage racks. I expect the person who came up with that $450k price tag was looking for it. You don't need a direct run from down town to the airport every 15 minutes. Would it cost $450k for the bus servicing airport heights to make a stop at the airport?

  • Anna
    February 12, 2016 - 09:01

    Is there anything Tom Hann is in agreement with except raising taxes?

  • Fred
    February 12, 2016 - 08:37

    The planning is minimal. The bus can make 1 trip to the airport per hour (this is what the airport bus in Toronto does). All that has to be decided is the route. Those that want to take the bus only need to access other busses to get to the airport route.

  • Elaine
    February 12, 2016 - 08:33

    Talk about overestimating. How is it going to cost $190,000-$450,000 to extend one of the two bus routes that currently go to Airport Heights? Places like Toronto and Vancouver are paying millions to put in super-fast service direct from the airport to downtown, but we can't even take a slow bus? Taxis here block the arrivals entrance and block off nearly half the sidewalk access. Anywhere else, that alone could spark a corruption investigation.

    • Allan
      February 12, 2016 - 20:59

      Fully agree. Come on Uber. We need you here.

  • Tommy To
    February 12, 2016 - 07:51

    Is this guy for real!!

  • Let's be a real City
    February 12, 2016 - 06:47

    We need to function like other cities that have some form of either public or mass transportation to the airport. If this was to be done by Metrobus, which is taxpayer funded, then the fare to the Airport should be higher, even double or triple the normal fare. A $7.50 - $10.00 bus ride is still better than a $20 dollar taxi fare.

  • carogers
    February 12, 2016 - 06:45

    Has it occurred to the council that had there been a bus service to the airport people like myself would have a job at the airport. I have seen job postings that I could not apply for because I do not have a car. I had a job as a dispatcher for the Go bus but had to give up the job because metro bus only traveled to the area twice a day... YES ONLY TWICE A DAY. Early morning and then around 5pm. I worked afternoon shifts and had to walk from Sobeys Square an hour to work after taking two buses to get to Sobeys Square. Then an hour walking back to Sobeys square each evening because the stupid bus schedule. I had to give up that job because walking that distance every day in all weather was too difficult. So... as they say... "build it and they will come". Or in our case to work at the airport because a bus is able to take people there. Why can money be spent on every thing else but the things that can get people to work? Nlers are not lazy but leadership sure is short sighted.

  • Traveller
    February 11, 2016 - 23:00

    I would immediately be very upset if I arrived in a City and found no bus or reasonable public transit option from the airport. Its absurd to give a monopoly to a single taxi company and seriously stiffles tourism and general growth of the City.

  • dndne
    February 11, 2016 - 21:59

    Another example of bumbling from the bunker. Hann is further out of touch than DOK

  • aircan23
    February 11, 2016 - 19:56

    The route to the airport would be primarily used by the employees. The buses would not have to be altered in any way. Hann you are a moron. I've worked at several airports over the years and public transportation was the way to work.

  • Me in
    February 11, 2016 - 19:47

    Make no wonder St. John's has so many issues with dinosaurs like Hann spewing their archaic thoughts! The only city in the world without a bus to city Center

  • Iceman
    February 11, 2016 - 17:30

    In Fort Mac,they have abus with luggage racks,that is used in the morning ,dinner time ,evening.the bus stops at the hotels or bus stops along the designated route to pick up passengers who work at the airport or people flying in or out.while working there ,I found it to be a real asset,and it didn't cause any problems with the taxis or limos that provided service to the airport,and the fare was cheap,1.25 each way,food for thought!

  • LPG
    February 11, 2016 - 16:08

    The TTC in Toronto have routes to Pearson. I have take "the 52" into North York and back . About a 45 minute commute but a cheap alternative . And no luggage racks .

  • Me
    February 11, 2016 - 16:03

    A taxi to the airport cost me about 40. A bus would cost me 2. Of course the operators would be upset. Does it really cost 40 from SJ west to the airport.??

  • Cracked
    February 11, 2016 - 15:57

    I agree with Hann. For the amount of people who will use a very limited route I think it's a pretty bad idea. It's not like calling your private bus or an airport shuttle to take you from point A to B. Wait for the bus to arrive on Metrobus schedule, not yours. Then board and pack up your luggage. Then take the milk run with other stops to where you have to go, possibly connecting with other routes with your luggage. I don't see how it's anything more than a taxpayer sink hole for the few who will use this option.