Steam train at Assiniboine Park plagued by low ridership
Published Friday, July 13, 2012 12:31PM CST
Last Updated Friday, July 13, 2012 5:52PM CST
The iconic steam train at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park could be heading into the station for a final time.
Train owner and operator Tim Buzunis says ridership has dropped by more than 50 per cent this summer.
The train has been in operation since 1964 and originally came from Pennsylvania. Buzunis said if ridership doesn’t pick up, he may have to move the train back there.
“I need about 12 peopleto break even on one trip. I’m now sometimes getting three, four people,” said Buzunis. “It’s not economically feasible to run it like this.”
He blames the downturn on the change made to the zoo entrance.
The main entrance was moved to the Roblin Boulevard gates this April, and the zoo’s east gate was closed.
Buzunis says people don't walk by and see the train anymore on their way to the zoo.
Park officials say they are planning to put up new signs directing people to the train.
Eric Stewart road the train Friday and said the change made the train difficult to find. “We were just driving through and almost missed it,” said Stewart.
Officials from the Assiniboine Park Conservancy said they changed the main entrance permanently so that it would be on a busier route.
Kevin Hunter works with the Conservancy and doesn’t want to see the train go. “It’s an icon for the park. We want it to remain,” Hunter said.
The park is now erecting signs to make riders more aware of where the train is.
Buzunis said he isn’t convinced the signs will solve the problem.
“I don’t think that’s the main issue. The main issue is to get that east gate open again,” Buzunis said.
Park officials said they will look into what other measures may be necessary to keep the train full.
Buzunis said he will try to make it through this year and potentially next, but if ridership does not increase, he’ll be bringing the train for its last ride around the park shortly after that.