Empty Trains

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VIA Rail: Stop Transporting Empty Trains and Start Offering Affordable and Stable Ticket Prices

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Photo taken aboard the Quebec City-Montreal Train 29 on April 23rd 2018 showing two "cars" (#5 and #6) which stayed entirely empty during the whole trip. Tickets for this train were going for 69$ (one way) at the time of its departure.

What do we want?

As a government-funded Crown corporation, VIA Rail has the responsibility of always offering affordable travel.

VIA has invested in marketing campaigns targeting a younger market, increasing its social media presence, working with "influencers", introducing semester passes, etc. [1] At the same time, its base fares have remained high and out of reach for most students and non-Business travelers.

We feel, as just one example, that one way Quebec City-Montreal fares should always be available until all seats sell out in the 20$ range. Such a price would most certainly fill a lot of the empty train seats that are a common sight today.

VIA Rail should stop airline-style algorithmic pricing.

No government-funded Canadian collective transport agency sells tickets whose price fluctuates up to 300% depending on the purchase date, the travel date, and/or other opaque reasons, a technique resembling Uber's "surge pricing". Fluctuating and unpredictable pricing frustrates travelers who can never rely on a simple, known price. How does VIA expect travelers to create a habit of taking the train in this context? Additionally, VIA Rail is not transparent about this approach, only cryptically noting that "Tactical actions continue to ensure average fares are maximized." [2]

VIA Rail should stop transporting empty trains.

Routinely running empty trains while selling absurdly expensive tickets for seats in those empty trains goes against common sense and even against VIA's statement that "The Corporation is taking actions and implementing initiatives to maximize revenue generation and enhance customer service to attract and retain customers." [3]

As a government-funded Crown corporation, VIA Rail should answer to Information Requests pertaining to the number of tickets sold and passenger boardings.

All Information Requests on this subject have been refused by VIA Rail on the premise that it is exempted from providing this information to the public. Citizens have the right to know a) the number of tickets sold b) the prices of those tickets c) the number of passengers who boarded its trains and d) the total number of available seats per train. This is especially true given that VIA is continuously in deficit. See all refused requests on this topic by following this link (see 2017, 2016, and others).

Why do we want it?

We love rail transport. It's one of the calmest, most relaxing way of traveling between cities. It's also an environmentally responsible choice, and keeps more people from driving, lowering the number of car-related casualties, highway congestion and stress.

We love VIA Rail's conductors and travel agents. Everybody on board is extremely kind and devoted to making train travel an awesome experience.

We love VIA Rail's train service and the people who take care of the trains. The trains are comfortable, offer complimentary wifi and a great selection of snacks.

We are unhappy that the Canadian government, specifically Transport Canada, subsidized VIA Rail 260M$ in 2016 while not making demands in return for VIA Rail to consistently offer affordable tickets, nor answer any Information Requests on ticket sales or passenger boardings.

Who are we?

We are the Collective Against Empty Trains.

We are rail-transport-loving citizens who would like to see more passengers enjoy our government-subsidized rail service. We like affordable, accessible collective transport and hate empty trains!


[1] 2015 report, pages 20 and 21

[2] 2014 report, page 73

[3] 2015 report, page 59