Battle of the buses

Student company threatened with letter from Coach Canada

A Queen’s student-run bus company — the Kingston Rocket — is facing an investigation by the Ontario Highway Transport Board (OHTB) following a complaint filed by Coach Canada.

The Rocket is a low-cost student travel venture that charters schoolbuses from Kingston to the GTA over major holidays. Ontario legislation and the OHTB requires companies running a scheduled transportation service to have a scheduled service license, which is traditionally given to one specific transportation company per route.

Coach Canada is licensed for the Kingston to Toronto corridor. The Kingston Rocket wasn’t licensed, which is where the trouble began.

CEO Bill Mei, Comm ’15, isn’t convinced that his company needs to follow these regulations.

“We don’t believe we qualify as what’s known as a scheduled service,” Mei said. “There’s some problems with the legislation in terms of the wording and interpretation of the language.”

Coach Canada said on Dec. 13 that they sent a letter to Mei stating that they were the current license holders for the route and that the Kingston Rocket was in violation of the legislation.

Coach Canada said they didn’t receive a reply to their letter and on Dec. 19, filed a complaint with the OHTB. Currently, the OHTB is looking into whether there is a public need for the Kingston Rocket service and whether or not they fall under this legislation.

Prior to these legal troubles, the Kingston Rocket had collaborated with two students from Western University — Brett Heron and Nancy Li — to share resources and create the London Rocket.

Problems began to arise when Greyhound pursued the London Rocket for operating within their route without a license, and without the resources to fight back, the student bus company was shut down.

In fear of the Kingston Rocket being a similar target, Mei took his story to press shortly after the loss of the London Rocket in early December and sought legal counsel.

“Now that we have lawyers on our side, it’s a bit less stressful for us and we felt more confident actually running,” Mei said.

The Kingston Rocket and their legal representation are currently looking at different options and determining the best next steps to take.

They believe their service doesn’t fall under the legislation because they simply charter buses and don’t run on a service schedule.

The Kingston Rocket has circulated an online petition which has collected almost 1,300 signatures to help support their cause and demonstrate a public need.

Ultimately, the issue stretches beyond just this case for Mei. He said he believes this legislation isn’t effective and would like to see transportation services deregulated.

“What’s wrong with people chartering a bus to go from point A to point B? I mean, that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

Provinces like Alberta are deregulated and have numerous bus companies running the same transportation service corridors for consumers.

“I really believe that consumers should be given a choice and there should not be a reason why these companies should be given a monopoly over their operating area,” Mei said.

Coach Canada President John Emberson said his company also shares these ideas about deregulation.

“We believe that the current regulatory system needs to be modernized to meet the needs of all customers,” he said.

Coach Canada is also restricted by the regulations and can only run on certain lines of transportation, he said.

“Within the current regulatory system we’re restricted on what we can do,” he said. “Everybody has to follow the regulations and that includes the Kingston Rocket.”

Results are still pending for the conclusion of the OHTB proceedings with the Kingston Rocket.


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