Saint John student pitches commuter train

Saint John student Peter Johnston believes a commuter train between Saint John and its outlying communities is an idea that could work.

Peter Johnston is hoping his petition will lead to a new generation riding the train

Saint John student Peter Johnston believes a commuter train between Saint John and its outlying communities is an idea that could work.

Johnston is a student at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, and is currently collecting names on a petition supporting the plan.

"I think it's something that can be done," he said.

The former Via Rail station, located near Harbour Station, sits empty. There hasn't been a passenger train roll by in more than 20 years.

Johnston's petition calls for officials to look into the potential of a commuter train that would use existing CN tracks.

He would like to see the line run approximately 60 kilometres from Hampton, through to Saint John, and ending in Grand-Bay Westfield.

"Simply put trains on those tracks and run them into the city twice a day, peak hours of traffic is what you want to capitalize on."

He points to cities like Denton, Texas which has a population comparable to that of Greater Saint John, and runs a successful commuter train.

Saint John councilor Bill Farren agrees the idea has a lot of merit.

He pitched a similar idea to the previous council and says Enterprise Saint John looked into it and concluded it wasn't feasible.

Despite that, Farren said he still believes it could work.

"I think it's a fantastic idea," he said. "The wear and tear on those streets and traffic tie-ups — this is a win-win for everybody I think."

Saint John Transit skeptical

Frank McCarey, general manager of the Saint John Transit commission, doesn't believe Saint John has the necessary volume for a passenger train.

"I find it difficult to believe it will happen." he said.

Saint John Transit General Manager Frank McCarey doesn't believe a commuter train is feasible for Greater Saint John.
McCarey explains the bus route that serves the Greater Saint John area is busy, but says there aren't enough passengers to demand a commuter train.

"My understanding is rail is very, very expensive and you have to have huge volumes of people to justify it," McCarey said.

"I know in the bus business, before they'll look at subways or light rail transit operations, they're looking at movements of 8 to 10 thousand passengers an hour."

Peter Johnston remains committed to the idea and said he hopes his petition will lead to a new generation riding the train.