Dept. of ideas that make perfect sense to the insane


Via Rail wants to compete with iTunes. “It’s not our core business, obviously,” says a guy who gets paid to say things that are clearly true.


Dept. of ideas that make perfect sense to the insane

  1. They got the memo. Canadians want high speed between Windsor and Quebec City.
    Given that they run Via Rail, they naturally assumed “high speed” meant internet.

  2. How do you even come up with something to say about this? I mean… wow. I hope the new, cooperative parliament can unanimously agree that there needs to be some clean-up done at Via. Preferably by firing everyone.

    I have worked for an iTunes competitor before. In Seattle. I suggest not getting into that business. I would also suggest that Via might want to learn how to not lose $200m in one business before getting into another.

    I… wow.

  3. We have a iTunes already. We demand SUPERTRAIN.

  4. Hate to rain on the parade, but it’s probably not QUITE as insane as the article suggests. I couldn’t get access to Via’s RFP/RFQ/RFI site to confirm it, but I suspect that Via is looking for a partner to sell entertainment to its passengers – a kind of win-win, as they provide their passengers a further service, and they make some money. The point to the “not our core business” remark was probably to explain why they’d bring on a partner to provide the service.

  5. I believe Myriam Bédard’s boyfriend, Nima Mazhari, came up with the idea some time ago.

  6. Train ….. traiinnn …. 19 coaches long….

    If they could corner the market on train songs …..

  7. After the tickets, the overpriced sandwiches and drinks, the pay-per-use Wifi…sure, everyone with an Ipod is certainly going to want to pay to download tunes and movies.

    Nickel-and-diming us to death…and this, at a point when more people can in fact be enticed to take the train. In the Quebec/Windsor corridor, nothing beats it, especially business travel on Via 1.

  8. Why doesn’t Via compete with greyhound or Red Arrow on the Edmonton-Calgary route? Nevermind highspeed, just more or less the same speed as a car. Red Arrow has free wi-fi in a freaking bus – actually a whole fleet of buses – there’s clearly a business commuter market to tap into. Perhaps someone should “email” a map of Alberta to Via.

  9. Does this mean we no longer get the complimentary 8-track?

  10. …it’s that orange blossom special, bring-in my baaaby back.

    Sorry, just became inspired by Sisyphus.

  11. Considering that the federal government’s subsidy to VIA equates to $48 for each ticket VIA sells, it would certainly behoove VIA to seek out additional revenue. And considering that a lot of their services in the Toronto – Montreal corridor are sold out on a regular basis, something like raising their prices might not only clear the market, but contribute to its net income and reduce the burden on the federal government (like, that would be us).

    As for high speed rail (as opposed to internet), one can only hope that if and when the feds/ON/QC move ahead with some kind of high speed rail in the “corridor”, an operating entity other than VIA would handle the service.

    All of this reminds me, as I swish through the mists of time, that the acme of railway service in this country was the so-called “Silk Trains”, that moved (you guessed it) silk that had arrived by ship from China at Vancouver and was destined for textile mills in QC and the US northeast. Those trains (about 30 cars) were expedited and guarded by armed guards (because of the value of the cargo). The average speed: 30 mph. Average speed for CPR’s “Canadian” between Montreal/Toronto and Vancouver in the 1950s: 30 mph. Average speed for VIA in the corrisor: 30 mph if you are lucky. Guiness record top speed for a railway train in Canada: the Turbo train in the early 1970s at 142 or so mph.

    Bring on real high speed rail!

  12. Hologram travel seemed promising. Via is thinking too small.

  13. Its all in the implementation…..if they are looking to maximize the revenue from clients they make available through their in train wifi access, good for them…..but there are always subsititutes, you can still go direct over wireless broadband, like from your I Phone.

    It may not be a brain dead an idea as you have made it sound…but I can certainly be sure it isnt nearly as attractive as it was sold internally at Via. As long as they do it as revenue share and not putting taxpayer capital I am all for any initiave they want to try to increase revenue per passenger.

    Given their significant segment of students in the London Toronto and Kingston Toronto corridor, probably the ones goign to the maritimes as well, then there is a market. Can they make $$ and do it without some bad unintended consequences is a totally different kettle of fish.

    I must say that the first class on Via is a good deal, not too expensive and rather relaxing, your own ower outlet, lots of room and lots of freebies. Worth the upgrade if you are taking the train.

  14. And y’all thought the ‘Big 3’ had bad business models…

  15. Thought experiment.

    I’m a Via 1 customer sitting in my Ottawa home. I’m taking a train to Toronto in an hour. I want to get the new Guns ‘n’ Roses album, though I know it will suck. Do I download it now? Or do I wait until I’m on a moving train to do it — and will I download it from iTunes even once I’m on the train, or do I download it from ViaTunes?

    What makes ViaTunes so attractive that I will wait until I’m on a train to do my downloading?

  16. Anyone tired the wireless internet service on Via? If you have, you know where this is headed, regardless of how thoughtful the idea might seem (or not) in the abstract.

  17. Paul, the one thing about ViaTunes is that it would be available anywhere, not just on Via trains. So if you really want to download Chinese Democracy (presumably because you want to remove all proof that you bought it), you could just buy it before you got on the train and still use ViaTunes. That makes the problem for ViaTunes much more general: How does a download music store compete with iTunes?

    In Canada there is a bit of an opening, because Amazon and Walmart haven’t moved into the game like they have in the US. At the same time, I don’t know how it can work unless Via gets access to the complete major music label libraries. The other option (which they seem to be hinting at) is partnering with an existing store and just getting the Via brand on it. Mybe the hook is that you can access the store while you are on the train and you don’t have to pay for WiFi access while doing it. Or if it’s a subscription based site, you can get a daily rate for donwloading with a valid Via ticket or something.

    I think one of the better idea they could come up with is some form of in car entertainment that they could charge for. Given how long a typical trip takes, it’s an opportunity that fits a need.

  18. What makes ViaTunes so attractive that I will wait until I’m on a train to do my downloading?

    Because ViaTunes will throw in a free MP4 of Elizabeth May’s last–or next, your choice–cross-country leader’s tour, including the extended-play version of her stopover in Weyburn, SK, at 4:00am.

  19. Mr. Andrews said the proposal is primarily intended to deliver music and movies to people with laptops travelling on Via trains, though the electronic notice specifically says the entertainment store should be available to customers anywhere, and would include delivery to hand-held devices, such as iPhones.

    So, Paul, would this be the “nice things” you lamented not getting enough of from your corridor rail provider?

    “Available to customers anywhere.” It is no longer good enough to suck at your core venture, apparently. Now, as a money-losing diesel-spewing Crown corporation, you are required to sit atop your taxpayer subsidy to compete unfairly with even more businesses, and that now have nothing to do with your industry.

    Charge a fair price for passenger rail, and we’re all on either the bus, the car or the plane. Why does that not matter to anyone?

    Hands up — what fools want government to keep running passenger rail service?

  20. Upgrading the current wi-fi to high-speed is a no-brainer.

    For those who think the high-speed train should be operated by a different company than VIA… why? You want another federal government bureaucracy? At least VIA knows trains. And, with the exception of some surly folks in the corridor which should be excised, it has very good customer service.

    We’re not talking Air Canada here. VIA is actually pretty good.

  21. BTW MYL…

    – VIA’s corridor serivce runs near capacity very often, so we’re obviously not all “in the bus, the car or the plane”.
    – If there was high-speed service from Toronto to Montreal and Ottawa, VIA would rule that market without a doubt.
    – VIA is mandated to serve many very small communities who have NO service other than train (that’s right, no plane, no car). THAT’S where the subsidy goes, not to a train ticket from Toronto to Kingston. In fact, the corridor routes subsidize the Hudson Bay service, the Sudbury-White Lake service, the Saguenay, Abitibi, off season service on the Canadian and Skeena, and a bit towards the Ocean and Chaleur.

    VIA would be profitable if it cut service to these communities but it is NOT ALLOWED TO. By whom? By the federal government. So the Feds pay for service to those areas.

    If you were to have VIA stop servicing those areas, how would you replace it? Or would you do a forced relocation all the people living in those communities?

  22. I hear there’s a lot of money in the coffee market. Perhaps Via should open a chain of coffee shops to compete with Starbucks and Tim Hortons.

    /shakes head in disbelief.

  23. Unfortunately, trends in the daily newspaper business have forced the cancellation of the Choo-Choo News project.

  24. If it means hobo music makes a comeback I’m all for it!

  25. VIA Rail does not want to compete with ITunes or anyone else for the download of media. VIA Rail wants to partner with providers/operators of on-line media to provide our passengers with an entertainment option.

    Most people today travel with some sort of electronic device; Lap-Tops, I Phones, I Pods, Zune, Archos, 3 G phones etc. It makes sense to partner with a well establisehd on-line entertainment store provider/operator, we can provide the partner access to our 4.2 million trips a year and help them sell their product to our customers.

    VIA Rail trains operating in Quebec and Ontario have elctrical outlets installed at every seat. This type of partnership does not require an investement on VIA Rail part and VIA does not have to carry a lot of video.audio equipment that adds weight and increases fuel cost.

    A sensible solution when you keep in mind that over 50% of our sales are completed through our web site and that all of our major stations provide wireless internet access to our customers.

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