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

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on February 11, 2016
Tom Hann.
Telegram file photo

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

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.

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @DanMacEachern