Rural regional buses battle for ridership in southwestern Ontario
London, Ont. –
Since the demise of Greyhound Services in our area, travelers have struggled to find alternative means of getting around.
Yet, there has been an option in most parts of southwestern Ontario for over a year now.
The regional bus service is still struggling to establish itself, as CTV News attests.
Directly opposite London’s Masonville Shopping Center is a bus stop and shelter.
Almost all users of the site wait for London Transit (LTC) buses. But, two services stop here. The other is the Huron Shores Area Transit Service.
It offers buses to and from London, through towns and villages to Grand Bend.
An intercommunity transit bus stop for Huron Shores can be seen next door and a London Transit bus stop sign on July 5, 2021 (Sean Irvine / CTV London)
An inter-community transit bus stop for Huron Shores can be seen next to the London Transit bus stop sign on July 5, 2021. (Sean Irvine / CTV London)
Operating for nearly a year, its arrival still puzzles LTC passengers. Most, including Trevor Harding, don’t know they can get to the Lake Huron resort from the mall. “I had no idea! I probably would.
Regional buses, funded directly by the province, operate to and from most major centers in southwestern Ontario. Along their routes, they stop in small towns. Fares range from $ 5 to $ 20 one way.
Initially planned for a two-year pilot project, the province has just announced a new two-year extension, until 2025.
The systems, which use 20- to 24-seat mini buses, were created to serve small communities, according to Demitri Makrakos. He oversees the system that travels between Sarnia, Strathroy and London. Makrakos says limited rail and road transit supports the need.
âAs well as Greyhound recently closed its doors. Now people are turning to different forms of public transportation to rural communities.
But with COVID-19, that’s not exactly a booming start. In the Huron Shores service area, transit coordinator Charles Fitzsimmons says buses frequently travel with very few passengers. Local Mayor Bill Weber concedes the same comments.
âFrom what I’ve heard, there isn’t a lot of traffic. There are routes that have regular ridership but not much larger than that. “
However, a few areas have had limited success, the Sarnia-Strathroy-London route being a key example.
“The afternoon service is the most used, this is where there will be seven to ten people on the bus at a time.”
With the capacity to cut COVID-19 in half, it’s almost a full bus.
For other areas, marketing options are being considered to boost ridership, especially as pandemic restrictions relax.
For Huron Shores, a video is being filmed for potential use on TV and social media.
It is hoped that awareness and ease of use will come from a simplified transport application. It is designed to coordinate most schedules and routes in one place.
In the meantime, here are some links to each transit service site:
City of Stratford
Town of Tillsonburg
For Chatham-Kent visit:
For Windsor, Essex and Leamington: