Students in Sackville over the holiday break took advantage of common transportation in the area to travel and meet friends in Halifax, N.S.
Two popular methods of common transportation in the Tantramar Region are bus and train. Maritime Bus is a new bus service in the region and Via Rail has recently scaled down operations.
Twenty per cent of rail stations are now unstaffed, most recently including Sackville.
The cuts to Via’s Ocean line and Acadian Bus Lines being replaced by Maritime Bus, which doesn’t serve all the same places has concerned people when they are trying to get from point A to point B in the Maritimes.
Ian Chew is an international student from Malaysia at Mount Allison University.
Chew is currently in his second year of study majoring in international relations.
Over the holiday, Chew travelled to Halifax on the Via train.
He booked his ticket online and noted that some days he wanted to travel were blacked out and had no service.
Regarding the reduction in services, Chew said, “The station was closed and you had to wait outside, I stood there for almost an hour because the train was delayed because of a storm in Quebec. I only knew of the delay because a man from Prince Edward Island was also waiting and told me. There appears to be an electric sign to display information but it wasn’t working.”
Chew said that once he was on the train he felt very comfortable during the three-hour trip to Halifax.
Chew is self-employed as a part-time freelance photographer, so he deemed the $75 for the round trip affordable but pointed out other students might not be able to afford it.
For Chew, some of the positives of the trip were the picturesque scenery and the lack of stress of having to drive to Halifax ahead of a blizzard.
There was also plenty of opportunity to relax and take photos.
Chew said with the reduced services he would still appreciate better communication with passengers about delays and notifications even if the station is unstaffed.
Dianté Richard is a Sackville native who travelled home from Montreal, Que., over the holiday.
Richard is in his second year of fashion design study at LaSalle College in Montreal. Richard travelled to Halifax by bus over the break to visit old friends and make new friends.
The cost of the new Maritime bus service is comparable to the train.
“Taking the bus as a form of transportation is a great choice due to the fact of meeting new people.” - Dianté Richard
Richard paid roughly $70.00 for a round trip ticket, student fare, from Sackville to Halifax.
Richard said, “The length of the trip was probably one of the major improvements the bus line should look into.
“They had trouble following the schedule they had made for the trip (roughly 3.5 hours from Sackville to Halifax), creating delays in cities or waiting for the other transfer buses to arrive, making the trip longer then it needed to be.
“As they are a fairly new company I’m hoping they will be able to improve the time frames given to their passengers.”
Richard positvely noted, “I feel like the convenience is great, having four possible times to use this service to travel to Halifax within a day and that this form of transportation is very easy to understand and use.
“The bus driver provided good communication to the passengers, allowing them to be able to know when they must get off or if they must take a bus transfer.
“People are always willing to help.”
There were a few improvement Richards suggests.
“I would recommend they add outlets and perhaps small tables in the back of the seats so people can use their laptops and other electronic devices without having to feel pressured for losing battery power.”
Richards also recalled a fond memory of the trip.
“Taking the bus as a form of transportation is a great choice due to the fact of meeting new people.
“I saw a lady come on board with her guide dog. It was great to see the hospitality the bus driver provided for her and the help that the passengers were offering her to have the most comfortable ride possible.”
Both Chew and Richards would also consider other means of sustainable transportation like ridesharing, but they feel it’s still not as popular as it could be in the Maritimes but did know about ridesharing websites like Maritime Rideshare and Kijiji.
Trevor Donald is the student communications intern with RCE Tantramar, a Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. He is also a student at Mount Allison University, where he is studying geography and environment.