Prince Edward Island-based Advanced Shuttle Services made its case Monday for a new inter-provincial shuttle service to the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board.
David Anderson, the owner of Advanced Shuttle Services, wants to set up a 15-passenger shuttle service between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
The proposal comes as Acadian Lines has locked out its 59 workers in the two provinces for four months.
Anderson told the regulator that he planned to request permission to launch the service before Acadian locked out its workers in December.
He told the EUB he feels there is a business case to bring the door-to-door shuttle service to New Brunswick, particularly for the elderly, university students and people with special needs.
"A lot of elderly customers needing transportation. We feel there can be successful business. We have to apply for scheduled or chartered," Anderson said.
He said running a system where the company had to stop at every community would be inefficient. So Anderson said the company would like to introduce a reservation system, where passengers' needs drive the schedule and the route.
"If I had to follow a schedule, I would. But it might make the company non-profitable. I'd rather have both reservation and chartered," he said.
The business owner said they would not set up terminals, but instead would pick people up at their door, or meet them in public parking lots.
"We have a lot of clients who are the elderly. They have a lot of hospital appointments. They need to be picked up at home, dropped off at the hospital," Anderson said.
The hearing was held in Saint John. The regulatory board said a written decision will be released within 30 days.
Advanced Shuttle Services would like to run two shuttles which would leave P.E.I. and make stops in Port Elgin, Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.
Anderson has proposed starting with four days a week, 11 passengers per shuttle.
The company also raised a possible fare structure at the hearings on Monday.
Anderson said the company is looking at charging a person who is going between Prince Edward Island and Salisbury $45 or a return trip would cost $85. The same rate would apply for any trips to locations between Fredericton and Moncton.
There would also be a $70 fee, or $135 for a return trip, for a trip from Prince Edward Island to any locations past Petitcodiac, such as Fredericton.
There are four groups arguing against the company's plan, including the union for New Brunswick's school bus drivers.
Delalene Harris Foran, a spokesperson for CUPE Local 1253, which represents roughly 2,200 school bus drivers, custodians and maintenance workers, said her members have safety concerns about 15-passenger vehicles.
She also said they do not like a private company moving in on a bus run that's usually served by locked-out Acadian Lines workers.
"Acadian is out on strike, right. And, we feel that other companies shouldn't be coming in and trying to cherry-pick good runs," she said.
"We're a union also, and, if this company gets licensed to haul public, or whatever, they'll just pick the good routes and the rural communities will be left out in the cold again with no public transportation."
The three other interveners are Acadian Lines, the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents the locked out Acadian workers, and two mothers from Bathurst who lost their sons in a 15-passenger van accident in 2008.
Isabelle Hains and Ava Acevedo contend the vans, which were subsequently banned for school use, should never be used for moving people.
"Our job now is to advocate on safety for travel," said Acevedo. "Doesn't matter if student, disabled, any human being. We all deserve to be transported in the safest way possible."
A Department of Public Safety official described the safety standards and licensing process for 15-passenger vans on Monday.
Meanwhile, Acadian Lines' lawyer Steven Zatzman challenged Anderson on whether his proposal could make money.
"Have you really thought this out?" he asked.
Zatzman argued Anderson's business plan wasn't worth the paper it was written on.
Anderson told reporters the hearing was a big learning curve for him because he's only owned his business for six months.
If the ruling doesn't go in his favour, he said he plans to make another, more persuasive pitch.
Acadian has exclusive rights
Acadian Lines locked out its workers on Dec. 2 and there has been no bus service connecting the two provinces since the work stoppage began.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1229 is calling on the Alward government to step in.
There's no new scheduled talks until April 29 — five months after the lockout began, said president Glen Carr.
"We need a government official to sit as a third party to put us back to the table in time so we can put these buses back on the road," he said.
The scheduled talks are expected to last three days.
Acadian has exclusive rights for most inter-city travel in New Brunswick under the province's Motor Carrier Act. In return, the company is required to run buses to communities where it doesn't make any money.
New Brunswick has a regulatory system, put in place in 1937, which was designed to ensure bus service to remote communities by restricting competitors from coming into New Brunswick and poaching the best routes.
The Motor Carrier Act says the regulatory board can approve such 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."
The Public Utilities Board, the predecessor of the Energy and Utilities Board, rejected an application by Advanced Shuttle Services in 2004 to set up a inter-province shuttle service.