“One round-trip student ticket to Ottawa, please,” I said to the man behind the ticket window. He checked my student ID card and then asked for $60.
“60?” I said, incredulous, as if maybe I hadn’t heard him right.
He confirmed that yes, that was the price. I shrugged. I hadn’t gone to Ottawa by bus in a while, but I couldn’t remember having paid that much before. I handed over the money, took my ticket and receipt, thanked him and left. As I walked away from the ticket window I looked over my receipt and noticed a five dollar charge had been added to the total cost of the round trip tickets. I went back to the window and asked for this charge to be explained. He told me it was a charge from Greyhound, but he didn’t know what for.
“Don’t you work for Greyhound?” I asked him somewhat peevishly.
He told me he did, then left the window and returned with an assortment of papers. He flipped through them until he found a memo from Greyhound. He read me what appears on the Greyhound website in the Ticket & Travel Info section: “A Facility Fee of $2.50 for one way and $5 for round trips will be charged in addition to the cost of the ticket or tickets purchased. Facility Fee are taxable fees. This facility fee will be used to provide ongoing maintenance, service and operation of the bus terminal building.”
According to the ticket agent I spoke with over the phone, this fee was implemented on January 5, 2013 and I was assured that a formal announcement had been made informing customers of this new charge. However, I found no such announcement in the company’s news releases or through a Google search. Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy with the raise in prices. As a student on a budget $60 is a lot, even if its only an additional $5 from what I used to pay. Which is why I was intrigued by the ridesharing service, Kangaride, a company that began in Eastern Canada, which promised to be a much less expensive way to travel.
Kangaride, (AmigoExpress in French), which launched this past April across Canada, prides itself on providing professional monitoring and customer service to ensure driver and passenger reliability and safety. This is accomplished by their comprehensive website and 25 staff members who not only validate driver’s licenses but also follow up with passengers and drivers about their trip so they can provide ratings that allow customers to get an idea of the quality of the driver or passenger they will be signing on with.
“…when you ask people about ridesharing, you’ll almost invariably hear concerns about safety or reliability. People say, ‘I can’t see myself traveling with people I don’t even know! And how can I be sure my driver/passenger is going to show up?’” said Kangaride co-founder Marc-Olivier Vachon.
“That’s certainly a concern I had when first hitchhiking around the country, and later when trying to hook up with passengers through classified ads websites. From this emerged the desire to create a community where members could rate each other and where professional support and dedicated customer service would be offered, making ridesharing an option that is as logical as a bus service because it is both safe and reliable.”
All of this sounded great, but I decided I needed to try it out for myself. I’d never done ridesharing before because I didn’t like the idea of getting in a car with someone I’d met through Craigslist. However, I was reassured when I saw that the driver I’d chosen had done 23 previous trips and had received five star ratings from her passengers in the categories of: punctuality, courtesy, reliability, security and comfort.
I was also pleased with the cost. The driver was asking $13 for the trip and with the $5 booking fee Kangaride charges going to Ottawa would cost me only $18. There’s normally a $7.50 registration fee, but as a student I get the first six months of my membership for free. I booked a return trip with a different driver for $15, which including the booking fee, brought my total round trip cost to $38. I had saved $22 compared to my previous trip to Ottawa with Greyhound. Overall, the trip was a joy. My driver and fellow passengers were friendly, the driver arrived on time, her car was comfortable and I was enough at ease to take a snooze.
When I had previously traveled with Greyhound we were delayed over half-an-hour because we picked up ten passengers at Pierre Trudeau Airport. Since there is no ticket booth at the airport, those passengers had to get off at the Kirkland station and buy tickets from a one cashier working there.
With the Kangaride driver there were no such issues. She arrived on time at the designated meeting spot and the only delay we encountered was due to traffic. Furthermore, I got a call before and after my trip, asking me if I had any questions, if my trip had been enjoyable and if I had any complaints or suggestions to improve the service. This questionnaire is something Greyhound has never done. I liked the fact that Kangaride personnel spoke to me personally to get feedback, rather than having me fill out an impersonal online-survey. It reassured me that someone was taking care of any problems riders or drivers might experience with the service.
Nonetheless, I did experience one hiccup during my trip. As part of my journalistic duty, I felt I should return to Montreal with a different driver to see whether I would have the same great experience as my ride to Ottawa. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not correctly evaluating the information I’d been provided with before booking my trip.
Vachon and co-founder, Edith Bisson, have set up Kangaride so that a rider has access to all the necessary information about their driver before booking. A rider has access to information about the driver’s car, their vehicle license number, their name and contact information, as well as ratings from their previous trips. I saw that the driver for my return trip had a pretty good rating, but as I was more concerned with finding a suitable departure time, I neglected to take into account that my driver was male and I was the only passenger. I have nothing against men, but if I’m being honest, being alone in a car with a strange male makes me uncomfortable.
My return driver called me five minutes after our scheduled meeting time to ask that I please come meet him on the street around the corner. Hearing his voice gave me inexplicable butterflies in my stomach and I realized I’d made a mistake. I could not take this ride. He was a perfectly nice looking man, well dressed and groomed, he even had his baby daughter with him. Nonetheless, I just felt too uncomfortable and I declined the ride.
I should be clear, this was in no way the fault of Kangaride. I had all of the necessary information, but I neglected to consider it properly. I felt I should report my experience in its totality which is why I mention my foregoing of taking the rideshare back to Montreal. If I had taken the rideshare return to Montreal my total cost, as mentioned above, would have been $38. However, I ended up grabbing a Greyhound bus back to Montreal, which cost me $28 plus the $5 booking fee that was non-refundable from Kangaride. As a result the total cost of my trip was $51. It was more expensive than if I had taken the rideshare both ways, but less expensive than a round-trip with Greyhound or Via Rail. As, with tax, a round-trip Via Rail ticket from Montreal to Ottawa costs $101.18.
Cost-wise, Kangaride is the best travel option for a student on a budget. Kangaride is much more controlled and monitored than rideshares posted on Craigslist. Furthermore, Kangaride provides you with information about your driver and other passengers who will be in the vehicle so you can decide whether said ride situation is right for you.