Sh. and I are planning several trips over the next few months; first a few days in southern Ontario to see friends and family, followed by a few days in Boston the weekend after that. I’m looking forward to the visits, but not the travelling (who does?). There are lots of ways to travel between Montreal and southern Ontario, but they’re all problematic. It obviously doesn’t pay for us to have a car when we just do this once every few months, so what options do we have left?
We unfortunately don’t take the train because Via tickets are really expensive unless you book ages in advance (and don’t want to travel at a popular time), and even if it were affordable we wouldn’t want to take planet-destroying short-haul flights. We would prefer to use rideshares from Craig’s List but those are almost all one-off last minute offers from people we’ve never met and it’s impossible to know who we can rely on to show up on time and drive safely. What we’d really like to do is travel using Allo Stop, a Québec company that operates a rideboard but also handles the phone calls, charges a small fee, and disbars unreliable members so you don’t have to deal with them. Unfortunately, a coalition of bus companies convinced the Ontario government to shut down their services there years ago when they became too popular. Still, there was obviously a niche waiting to be discovered, and so for the past few years a small industry of cheap, professional rideshares existed between here and Toronto, but someone must have started a crackdown because they’ve mostly disappeared from the internet sites where they used to advertise. The few who are left are offering “parcel delivery” services — with a free ride for you thrown in — in an attempt to get around the law, but even those outfits haven’t been answering their cell phones or returning calls lately. In related news, the bus company which travels between Montreal and Toronto now offers greatly reduced fares, so that you can do the trip for about $30, slightly cheaper than the typical rideshare (and only if you’re willing to decide ahead of time which bus you’ll take, which you never had to do before).
It’s important to note that the issue here isn’t the safety of these operator’s vehicles; rather, it’s that the established bus companies have been granted exclusive monopolies on certain routes and these small operators are in violation of those monopolies. I don’t really understand why those routes aren’t left to the free market, and what the argument is for state intervention here. And I’ll miss the rideshares, which always featured friendly conversation, a faster trip (due to fewer stops), and sometimes even decent movies on a small LCD screen. Oh, well. I’m glad this bus company was forced to set prices competitively despite their monopoly, and if they ever raise them again, I’m sure the Craig’s List ads will return in a matter of weeks. That should do me until I get around to re-establishing Allo Stop-style services from a secure bunker in Sealand.