Rail service's 'fatal blow' target of public meetings
Transport Action Atlantic meetings will start in Moncton on Sept. 25
A transportation interest group is holding a series of town hall meetings across the province in an effort to fight off a "fatal blow" to passenger rail service.
Via Rail announced in June the company’s Ocean service, which runs between Montreal and Halifax, will run only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays starting in the fall.
Transport Action Atlantic, a special interest group that promotes public transportation, is hosting the meetings in reaction to Via Rail's decision to cut service by 50 per cent.
Ted Bartlett, the vice-president of Transport Action Atlantic, said the cuts would be a "fatal blow" to the rail service in the region.
He said he feels too many policymakers hold an outdated view on public transportation issues.
"There seems to be a mentality among the public policy makers in Canada that there are two cars in every driveway in addition to the chicken in every pot and that everybody who wants to travel wants to fly," Bartlett said.
"We've got to shatter that misguided image. Because the people, perhaps, who are least able to speak out for themselves are the most frequent users of these public transportation services," he said.
Bartlett said the rail service needs some "innovative marketing" to get back on track.
His group is looking to offer a new blueprint for Via's revival and expansion.
The New Brunswick meetings will start with a session in Moncton on Sept. 25.
The mayors of Moncton, Dieppe, and Riverview have pledged their support to the campaign.
The next stops are in Campbellton, Bathurst, Miramichi, and Edmundston.
At these workshops, and others across the country, participants are looking for feedback in producing a blueprint for Via's "revival and expansion."
Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre said train service could increase if it was advertised better.
"Without advertising, the passenger volume has gone up in the region, specifically with the Ocean. And I'm sure that with some effort, some marketing, this could be improved," he said.
Transport Action Atlantic’s Bartlett said Via's annual report showed 134,000 people rode the Ocean route between Montreal and Halifax in 2011, which his up five per cent over the previous year.