Latching on to the Atlantic standard: 4 U.S. states ponder swapping time zones

Four New England states, including Maine, are considering a move to the Atlantic time zone. 

State representatives in New Hampshire and Maine have already approved the change, which would be contingent in each case on Massachusetts doing the same. That state's legislature has appointed a commission to study the matter.

In Maine, where a time zone bill cleared the senate this week, the change would also be contingent on the results of a statewide referendum,

Representative Carol McGuire, a Republican, co-sponsored a New Hampshire bill to have the state adopt Atlantic standard time.

"I hope to be on the same time with you sometime soon," McGuire said when contacted by CBC News. 

The bill is now before the senate.

Synchronized watches

"Most people like the idea," McGuire said. "And since we have better than 100,000 people that work in Massachusetts, we decided it would be a good thing if we were at the same time zone they were."

The proposals approved by Maine and New Hampshire lawmakers would dispense with daylight saving time.

In Rhode Island, Blake Filippi, the house minority whip, introduced a bill in February that would move that state to Atlantic time and also be contingent on Massachusetts abandoning Eastern standard time. 

Filippi said people in his state are tired of seeing darkness at 4:20 p.m. on December afternoons.

Most people he has talked to support the idea, he said, but there are concerns about children going to school in the dark in the morning.

"We have got to have later school start times," he said.

Maine is at the eastern edge of the Eastern time zone, which extends roughly 1,600 kilometres westward, almost to the Michigan's border with Wisconsin. 

Maine tourism operator Bruce Gillett said he supports the switch to Atlantic time but also wants to hold on to daylight saving time.

"I don't like waking up in the summer at 5 a.m.," said Gillett, who runs a vacation rentals business. "I'd rather get up an hour later. And I also don't like feeling sleepy at 8 o'clock at night."

In Massachusetts, a special legislature-appointed time zone commission is studying a possible move to Atlantic time.

While such a move could place at least four of the six New England states in the same time zone with the Maritimes, with the lawmakers' apparent opposition to daylight saving, it would only be for part of the year.  

"The transition from regular time to daylight saving time is dangerous and uncomfortable and nobody likes it," McGuire said.

"We think it's better that way. And I suspect that if we switch over you [in the Maritimes] might do the same, but that's your choice, of course."