Red Arrow seeks ‘interline partnerships’ to boost ridership

Red Arrow Motorcoach is hoping to extend its transportation reach with the help of other bus and shuttle services.

Red Arrow Motorcoach is hoping to extend its transportation reach with the help of other bus and shuttle services.

The Edmonton-based company is seeking “interline partnerships” with an eye to boosting its passenger counts in centres like Red Deer, Calgary and Edmonton.

“We’re looking at new communities to service, maybe with Red Arrow, but first and foremost we’re looking at establishing partnerships with either existing or potential bus operators,” said John Stepovy, Red Arrow’s general manager.

“We’ve got the infrastructure in place, we’ve got the booking engines in place, we’ve got the reservation systems — we have everything ready that you need to run a bus company and we’re looking for people that are interested in putting rubber to the road.”

In June, the Alberta government announced that it is deregulating the long-haul bus service, effective Oct. 1. It has in the past restricted competition on some routes in exchange for continued service on less-profitable runs.

Greyhound responded last week by cutting a dozen routes, as of Oct. 24. These include service between Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer, and Consort and Red Deer.

Greyhound spokesperson Tom Olsen told the Advocate that the Consort route was averaging just 0.6 passengers, and at Rocky the average count was 1.9 passengers. He added that Greyhound lost $7.5 million on passenger transportation in Alberta in its 2009-10 fiscal year.

Stepovy thinks there are better ways to serve small communities than with full-size buses.

“That doesn’t make economic sense, but it would make economic sense to run that same service with a 15-passenger shuttle van.”

And the best people to provide that service are those with existing charter or shuttle operations in rural communities, or entrepreneurs there, said Stepovy.

“They understand the community, they know the people, they know the need.”

What they might lack are the resources and expertise to expand into scheduled service. That’s where Red Arrow could help, said Stepovy.

“Everything from booking resources to websites to maintenance to safety programs; we have everything in place and ready to go.”

Red Arrow would benefit from rural passengers gaining access to its network.

“They would shuttle into the major route and Red Arrow can carry them forward.”

Stepovy said his company is already working with potential partners, but did not elaborate on Rocky’s and Consort’s situations.

Meanwhile, Red Arrow announced on Thursday that it will extend its daily scheduled service to Lethbridge this fall. Currently, it operates between Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton and Fort McMurray.

There are several departures and arrivals daily at the Holiday Inn on 67th Street. These include connections to and from Banff and Lake Louise.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com