Thursday, August 21, 2008

When is a bus not a bus?

When it's a car, obviously.

At least, that's the word from Trentway-Wagar, the interurban bus corporation that's looking to put my son's company out of business in Ontario.

Here's the story: PickUpPal is a ride-sharing website that's been growing by leaps and bounds over the few months it's been in operation. The idea is that it's better for the environment to have two or more people in a car than one -- especially if that one person happens to be driving a longish distance. Sharing a ride benefits the travelers, too: drivers get to share the cost of gas, and riders get to travel conveniently and comfortably, with a minimum of hassle.

Problem is, a few years back the Ontario government enacted some protectionist legislation in favour of bus companies, essentially ensuring that they'd have no competition from the pesky little tree-huggin', ride-sharin' types.

When Trentway-Wagar (coincidentally, one of the prime beneficiaries of said legislation) got wind of PickUpPal, they hired a private detective (I am not making this up), who registered as a user, arranged a ride, took pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, explaining what each one was. He signed an affidavit and everything, and the bus company went whining off to the province that their business was at risk! They could lose passengers! They could go bankrupt! Oh, the humanity!

So they're trying to claim that cars that give rides between cities for money, even if it's only gas-sharing money, are in fact buses. And that makes the drivers of those cars bus drivers, and that means that they should have to have special Bus Driver Licenses, which cost upwards of $500 apiece, and involve all sorts of specialized skills, such as how to drive buses. Even if your bus is really a car. Are you with me so far?

You can read all about it here: Globe and Mail article
or here: Torontoist article

And if you get all steamed up about it, you can even register your feelings here: PickUpPal petition and/or here: PickUpPal support

Apparently I'm not the only PickUpPal Mum who's got her shirt in a knot about this -- Christine Stewart, Canada's former Minister of the Environment and signatory to the Kyoto Protocol (which, as I recall, had a thing or two to say about carbon emissions and such) is the mother of John Stewart, one of PickUpPal's founders. If Christine can come out swinging, dammit, so can I!

I promise, tomorrow I will bring you more exciting knitting news. In fact, I'm nearly done the first Flying Carpet sock, and I'll put up pictures of it and everything. It will be very dramatic, and well worth the wait. No, seriously.


Stacy said...

That might be one of the most jacked up things I've ever heard. (See, just when I really totally think Canadian government is better than mine, you tell me this...) Will the people getting the petition care that I'm a US citizen?

Stacy said...

P.S. I just signed the petition. And, thank you for reminding me of my love of the Globe and Mail... I really must read it more often.

Susan said...

Love the Arlo Guthrie reference!

Brent Drewry said...

Thanks so much for your positive comments and your support!

All are welcome to sign the petition, makes for a louder voice to be heard, and have the Ontario Government act to change the current, restrictive legislation.

As I said in the media today, this is about a much larger issue: Choice. People want to be able to choose to be eco-friendly and choose to reduce costs while making it easier to get where they want to go.


VP Business Development

dawn draper said...

I just signed the petition. As someone who doesn't drive, I know how valuable a service ride-sharing organizations can be. For disabled people on a fixed income, bus or train travel is often not safe or affordable. There should be inexpensive ride-sharing opportunities for people who can't or won't drive.