A Summerside-based shuttle company is applying to set up a daily bus service that would connect New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
The Acadian Coach Lines lockout, which started in December, has eliminated the only bus link between the two provinces.
David Anderson, the owner of Advanced Shuttle Services, has applied to the Energy and Utilities Board for permission to set up the shuttle service.
Anderson said his service would mainly target university students but it would offer an option for anyone who needs to get between the two provinces.
The businessowner said the current bus lockout has shown the "inconvenience" of relying on only one company to operate a bus service between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
"This pretty well goes to show that the bigger company had the market and they didn’t have anything for people to fall back on. People need options and they didn’t have any," he said.
Advanced Shuttle Services currently operates a shuttle service between Halifax and Prince Edward Island.
The company would like to use two, 15-person passenger vans to shuttle people between the two provinces. The vans would leave Prince Edward Island and make stops in Port Elgin, Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.
Anderson said his company would like to have the service operating by mid-March.
Anderson said the company's previous owner applied in 2004 to the Public Utilities Board but they were denied.
In that decision the PUB, the predecessor of the Energy and Utilities Board, said, "this board has repeatedly found that it was in the public's interest to protect the existing scheduled carrier."
The province’s regulatory board will publish Advanced Shuttle Services’s request in the Royal Gazette next week.
The EUB will allow any individuals or groups to register complaints with the proposal until Feb. 7.
If the regulatory board requires a hearing, it would likely be held in late February.
If there are no objections to the proposal, the regulatory board could move directly to a hearing on routes and fares.
New Brunswick’s Motor Carrier Act says the board can approve these applications unless "the granting of the application would likely be detrimental to the interests of the users of public transportation services, to provincial economic or social development, or to intraprovincial, interprovincial, or international commerce."
Lockout raises questions
The month-long lockout has raised questions about the need for additional public transit options in New Brunswick.
So far, the Acadian lockout has meant Advanced Shuttle Service has been very busy fielding calls from potential customers. Anderson said his company is receiving six to 10 calls a day from individuals curious if they offer a service to New Brunswick.
Even if the Acadian lockout is resolved, Anderson said there is a need for the shuttle service.
A prominent New Brunswick environmentalist said the provincial government should consider setting up its own public transportation system.
David Coon, the executive director of the Conservation Council, said the provincial government should also consider helping to establish inter-city bus service by offering some tax incentive for companies.
Saskatchewan is one province that helps fund an inter-city bus service.
The Saskatchewan Transportation Company receives between $8 million and $9 million from the provincial government, which is about 65 per cent of the revenue.
A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Transportation Company said only three of 26 bus routes are profitable, but said providing the service to rural areas is something that's worth paying for.