Tricolour strands students

Hundreds of students were stranded in Scarborough Thanksgiving Monday, waiting hours for Tricolour Express buses to arrive and whisk them back to school.

Simon Baxter, ArtSci ’06, was among those waiting at Scarborough Town Centre at 7:30 p.m..

“The scene was pretty chaotic,” he said. “Parents and students [were] just all over the place.”

Three of the seven buses scheduled to arrive at the Scarborough City Centre at 7:50 p.m. came within a reasonable amount of time, but the majority of students were still waiting three hours later, when more buses finally showed up.

It wasn’t until midnight that the last of the students left for Kingston, along with Destinations Head Manager William Howe and Student Services Director Ashik Bhat, who came to help coordinate the mix-up.

Howe said the unusually long delay stemmed from confusion regarding the additional buses subcontracted by Coach Canada.

“The problem arose from the fact that Coach Canada … couldn’t make all of the schedules that they had provided for us, so they had chartered out to other companies’ buses that were supposed to pick up students, and those buses didn’t show up,” he said.

Coach Canada Manager Dennis Frost said the company has subcontracted buses before, which made the late arrival of buses unusual.

“We do it every year,” he said. “We have done it for years.”

Frost said that sometimes subcontracted buses have troubles, but he doesn’t know what caused Monday’s delay.

“Quite often we’re told they get caught in traffic,” he said. “We’re still trying to determine what happened here.”

Howe and Bhat went to the Scarborough pickup location Monday night on the last Tricolour bus from Toronto, where Coach Canada had asked them to help coordinate the loading of buses.

Bhat said that while there was probably a need for coordinators at pickup points in years past, this was the first time that staff had been at the sites to offer assistance.

“We took the last bus [from] Toronto—they generally pass Scarborough to pick up stragglers,” he said.

Arriving in Scarborough at 8:50 p.m., however, Howe and Bhat found more than just stragglers. Bhat said approximately 500 students were still waiting at the station.

“[Howe] got on the phone with dispatch, just getting buses there,” Bhat said.

Bhat added that he tried to organize the large and increasingly impatient crowd, steering them back from the curb and getting them onto the buses when they came.

“It was a bad situation and we did the best we could under the circumstances,” he said.

Baxter said the long wait was frustrating for him and others.

“Constantly hearing from [Howe and Bhat] ‘Oh, another bus should be coming, might be coming’ … people were getting pretty frustrated about that,” he said. “People were silently angry, people were on the verge, I could tell.”

Baxter added he takes the Tricolour Express often throughout the year.

“An ordinary weekend is never a problem,” he said. “Thanksgiving is always a problem, but never like it was this Monday night.”

Howe said Destinations was “very apologetic” for Monday’s delays.

“We are very concerned and we have taken great measures with Coach Canada to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

“We’ve already come up with some solutions that we plan to implement in December,” he added.

Among these solutions, Howe said, is to stagger bus times, instead of having all the buses from one pickup or drop-off point leaving at the same time.

Bhat said this strategy would both lessen the crowd at each pick-up and drop-off point, and eliminate the problem of sub-contracted buses that was encountered this year.

“Having all buses leave at the same time is just a big problem,” he said.

Howe added there was a similar problem last year at the same Scarborough location. While most people got on a bus at or near the scheduled time, about one and a half busloads of people had to wait.

“We’re going to provide staff members at each of the main locations,” Howe said, including Toronto and Scarborough, and possibly Ottawa.

Bhat said Thanksgiving is by far the Tricolour’s busiest weekend. “Christmas is a bit better because people leave at different times,” he said. “This year was the highest it’s ever gotten in sheer volume of students.”

Bhat also said the two school buses chartered by Tricolour Express didn’t experience any problems.

“That was a success. Next year we might be sending a school bus to Ottawa,” he said.

All students who were inconvenienced this year will be reimbursed, Howe said.

“Everyone that took the Scarborough bus will be getting a full refund for the ticket,” he said.

He added that there were also significant delays in Montreal and Mississauga, and that students on those buses will be able to pick up a discount coupon.

Baxter said that the compensation was a good idea, but that it should be only a beginning.

“Obviously they need to change things in the future, so they don’t need to give compensation,” he said.

Bhat said he was positive that this would not happen again.

“It will be better next year, I guarantee it,” he said.

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