Tri-Maritime Bus Network will start the day after Acadian Lines stops its bus service through the region.
Owner, Mike Cassidy, said Tri-Maritime is doubling the number of departures and arrivals to the province.
“We only have the one service off the Island right now where the bus leaves at 7:45 a.m. from Charlottetown, goes to Hunter River, Kensington, in Summerside by 8:30ish and to Borden,” Cassidy said. “We end up in Amherst, N.S., by 10 a.m. Then you can go to Moncton or to Halifax.”
However, “When you leave Halifax you leave at 7:15 a.m. They take you to Moncton but you don’t leave there until 2 p.m. and you don’t get home (to the Island) until 5 p.m.”
Cassidy said this weekend, this schedule will change.
“We are leaving Prince Edward Island twice a day and we are coming back onto the Island twice a day,” he said. “So, I have doubled the level of service here on P.E.I. and that’s very exciting.”
He said travellers will be in Amherst by 8:30 a.m. and in Halifax by 11 a.m. There will be a connection at 4:30 p.m. in Halifax going to Moncton for a 5:30 p.m. arrival time. Connections can be made there to Saint John, Fredericton or Miramichi. Returning to P.E.I. will be just as convenient, he promised.
“You can now leave Halifax at 4 p.m. and there’s a bus waiting for you in Amherst to take you to Prince Edward Island. You are no longer going through Moncton. You’ve got two great choices. You can get over here early in the morning to enjoy P.E.I. You’ll be here by noon hour. But if you want to spend your day in Halifax, jump on one of my buses at 4 p.m. It’s double the frequency… but more importantly, it’s just good service in the majority of cases.”
Cassidy said he used the knowledge he picked up by operating the public transit systems here on the Island including the logistics and the patterns, the convenience, the hubs and the connections.
“We redesigned it all, on the kitchen table,” he said.
There is always a sense of wariness when taking on such a challenge as a regional bus service but Cassidy described a recent incident that kept him moving forward with the project.
“I hired a senior management person out of an organization to join us because this is quite an expansion,” he said. “Her husband has a pawn/antique shop in Charlottetown.” On the day after she started, “a small wallet arrives into the pawnshop. The husband of my new hire opened up the wallet. Inside the wallet are two unused SMT bus tickets, dated May 27, 1948, going between Summerside and O’Leary. If that’s not a sign for Mike Cassidy to keep going... that’s pretty scary.”
In the majority of the cases, 55-seat buses will be used. In Summerside, the 24-Hour Irving on Water Street will remain the bus pickup point.
Cassidy said the public response to the new service has been strong.
“Last week when we first did our emails and phones, we got about 50 phone calls and 50 emails a day,” he said. “Yesterday, we got over 350 emails and 350 phone calls. We did $1,200 worth of business last (Wednesday) night. Twenty-five per cent to 30 per cent of this business is moving parcels.
“It’s going to be hard,” admitted Cassidy. “This is a huge step to try and make it all happen, but my attitude is: let’s just do our best, get people on the bus, get parcels on the bus and let’s get everybody to where they want to go.”