At least four buses per day run in each direction between Belleville and Kingston.
For reasons that…actually, for no good reason…it is not possible to buy a ticket for any of those buses.
We began this project just over a year ago as our little protest against the multiple nonsenses of inter-city public transportation. There’s no way to see the patchwork of Ontario bus operators as a connected network = nonsense. Major inner city bus stations are being relocated to locations without public transit = nonsense. Travel between downtowns of large cities on major corridors requires complicated connections = nonsense.
But the discovery that that riders cannot take buses already traveling between Kingston and Belleville is beyond nonsense; it is absolutely absurd.
The nuts and bolts of this dilemma:
Megabus runs three daily buses between Kingston and Toronto Pearson Airport, stopping at Napanee, Belleville, Trenton, (sometimes) Port Hope & Yorkdale on the way. According to standard logic, this bus can also be used for trips between Kingston and Belleville, Napanee and Trenton, Belleville and Port Hope etc.
Yet somehow, standard logic is not at play here: according to the Megabus website, from most of the stops along the route, it is only possible to travel to Pearson Airport.
Finding this unusual, we asked Megabus about this. The response was as follows: “Megabus does not have licensing to drop passengers off in Belleville that board in Kingston. Unfortunately we do not currently offer a route from Kingston to Belleville.”
We will fully admit that we cannot wrap our heads around inter-city bus licencing in Ontario. Thus far, the best explanation that we have seen of this bizarre system was written by our friends at TriTAG. If the idea of licencing is to allow one company to focus on building ridership through quality service on a given route, maybe that makes sense, but we cannot think of many examples where that has occurred.
Importantly, if Megabus does not hold the licence between Kingston and Belleville, then another company must hold it, right? Right???
So about that other company… Greyhound Canada runs one daily bus in each direction, between Toronto and Ottawa via Belleville and Kingston. Again, riders cannot buy tickets for the Belleville <-> Kingston segment. Does this mean that Greyhound also does not have the license? If they do not, who does? And why isn’t “who” running buses?
More than anything, this situation of companies running on a route where riders are not allow to travel, causes us to ask the question: What the hell is going on here?
When thinking in terms of networks, this situation is even worse
There is a compounding effect of Belleville being disconnected from Kingston: that means that it is also disconnected from Megabus’ frequent route to Brockville, Cornwall, and Montreal. In fact, it is that very situation – me trying to travel from Montreal to Belleville – that alerted us of the absurdity of a route segment with service but a prohibition on ridership.
At the time of my trip, the concern was getting from A-to-B on short notice, so beyond planning my actual trip, I did not do much research on the subject. I was confused that I could not by a bus ticket and annoyed that I could not find a ride-share. The solution – for that trip – lay in VIA rail.
I like the train: it is comfortable, direct, carbon conscious, and decently classy. That said, there is one major issue with booking VIA tickets on short notice: price. Accordingly, traveling return between Montreal and Belleville cost me much more than most Montreal-Toronto trips I make.
Admittedly, I had not thought of the creative ways in which I could downsize my VIA to travel to Belleville:
- Take a bus from Montreal to Ottawa and then another from Ottawa to Belleville (only 7 hours to cover 370km!)
- Take a bus from Montreal to Kingston, and then take a train to Belleville (somewhat more warranted given that there are more trains running on this segment, but it does mean an inconvenient station change in Kingston).
- Travel by bus from Montreal to Scarborough, and then backtrack to Belleville on the one bus per day from Greyhound (a reasonable option for tragic reasons).
We are encouraged to see that at least some people in Belleville recognize the utility of inter-city bus connections. However, that article – like many that we write – relates to actually running buses to create service. This situation is different, the service is there; the impediment is (seemingly) a nonsensical rule that prohibits riders from using that service.
Or, is there more to this absurdity? If you know, we would like to hear from you. Especially if you are the Ontario Highway Transport Board, or one of the bus companies, who can tell us who “has the license” to run service on this route.