Bus service on the decline

Tricolour Express has decreased in sales since Megabus expanded

Retail services director Jeff Heenan says if ticket sales continue to decline, Tricolour Express could move to a ticket-agency model.
Retail services director Jeff Heenan says if ticket sales continue to decline, Tricolour Express could move to a ticket-agency model.

In the past two years, Tricolour Express has seen a 30 per cent decline in ticket sales.

The bus service is part of the AMS’s Tricolour Outlet, and operates routes to cities including Toronto and Montreal.

Last year, Tricolour Express brought in about a third of Tricolour Outlet’s overall revenue.

AMS retail services director Jeff Heenan said the Express was successful until 2009, when Megabus entered the Ontario student travel space. It was this year that Megabus expanded to Toronto and Montreal.

Ridership on the Tricolour Express has declined from 17,409 students in 2009-10 to 12,728 in 2010-11.

“It’s kind of a bizarre situation where our biggest partner in all of this is also one of our biggest competitors in all of this,” said Heenan, ArtSci ‘10.

Megabus is operated by Coach Canada, a company that partners with Tricolour Express.

Heenan said that Tricolour Express ridership was down by 29 per cent to Toronto, 58 per cent to Montreal and four per cent to Ottawa.

“The four per cent is probably because Megabus doesn’t have a direct route to Ottawa.”

If ridership continues to decline, Heenan said he’s looked into other ways Tricolour Express can meet students’ travel needs.

“Obviously, cutting the Express would change the way that Tricolour’s budget looks, and it would have an effect on our bottom line,” he said. “But, it wouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle to overcome. Tricolour Express has decreased in sales since Megabus expanded to overcome.”

Heenan said the AMS’s three-year contract with Coach Canada expires in 2013.

“If we did move forward with something like that it probably wouldn’t happen for at least another year, and probably two years, just based on our contract with Coach Canada,” he said.

One option would be for Tricolour Express to become a ticket agency, he said.

“You would still come into the store and get your tickets, but instead of getting a Tricolour Express ticket, you would get a Greyhound or a Coach Canada or a Megabus ticket,” he said.

If Queen’s were to adopt this ticket-agency model, Heenan said, it would still be a priority to have on-campus pickups.

Under the ticket agency model, Tricolour Express wouldn’t collect revenue from ticket sales.

“We would pay Coach Canada and they would send us a commission,” Heenan said. “The profit from sales might increase.”

Laurier, Waterloo, Brock and McMaster use the ticket agency model.

In April, the Journal reported that Tricolour Express planned to begin online ticket sales.

Heenan said this won’t be happening in the near future. Tricolour Express is the first agency in North America to be using a new browser based portal brought in by Coach Canada.

“The new system is actually very similar to how you would buy tickets online, only it’s tweaked because you don’t put in your credit card information, you pay [Tricolour Express] in cash,” he said.

Tricolour Express was up by 5.8 per cent in revenue this September compared to last September’s revenue.

“Last year in September, it was $103,000. This year in September it was $109,000,” Heenan said.

The increase in ticket sales resulted from the new portal that allowed Tricolour Express to sell tickets further in advance, he said.

“In the past, we were only able to sell tickets a week before the departure date and now we can sell tickets 45 days before the departure date,” he said.

A Tricolour Express ticket to Toronto or Montreal is $40 and a ticket to Ottawa is $28.

Heenan added that students probably bought tickets to go home for Thanksgiving in September. All Tricolour Express buses were sold out for the Thanksgiving weekend.

However, October and November have seen Tricolour Express sales decline.

“For the month of October, the bus was down about 10 per cent versus the month of October last year … I know that we’re down somewhat for the month of November,” Heenan said.

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