London

Microtransit routes are coming to a municipality near you

Travellers will soon be able to hop on a bus between municipalities in southwestern Ontario.

Several bus routes will launch in southwestern Ontario on April 1

Some of the municipalities that will be connected with the new microtransit routes include Tillsonburg, Dorchester and London. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The wheels on the bus will soon go round and round between several municipalities across southwestern Ontario.

Four routes are launching in the coming months including one that will travel between Tillsonburg, Ingersoll, Dorchester and London.

"It's important to connect all of our communities," said Kelly Elliott, deputy mayor for Thames Centre.

"Twenty or 30 years ago, it was normal to hop on a Greyhound bus or hop on Via Rail ... unfortunately, we don't have that connectivity."

These routes were funded as part of the provincial government's microtransit program where municipalities received grants worth $1.5 million each last year to run four-year pilot projects. 

The following three routes will launch on April 1:

  • Tillsonburg-Ingersoll-Dorchester-London
  • Owen Sound-Wiarton-Blue Mountain-Orangeville
  • Sarnia-Strathroy-London

A fourth route connecting Dorchester with London is expected to be up and running by June 1.

They are called microtransit routes because they're not part of a larger bus network. In fact, only two buses will run at limited times throughout the week on some of the routes.

Voyago, a private transportation company based in London, has been contracted to operate the service. 

Challenges

Since receiving the grants last year, municipalities have been trying to work with each other and sort out challenges along the way.

One of them has been the lack of direction from the provincial government, according to Elliott. 

"There was no looking at a map to see where that money would best be leveraged," she said. 

As a result, the municipalities that have received the microtransit grant are regularly holding transportation summits under the South Central Ontario Region Economic Development Corporation.

"We want to see how we can best leverage all the money we have each received to serve as many people as we can," Elliott said. 

Microtransit routes are coming soon to several towns in southwestern Ontario, connecting London with Dorchester, Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Ingersoll. Guest host Allison Devereaux spoke with Kelly Elliott, deputy mayor of Thames Centre. 7:16

One of those summits was held this past Thursday in Tillsonburg as municipalities debated fare collection, bus stops, a governance model and marketing plans.

In addition, the role of transit in filling vacant jobs across the region was discussed.

"Transit's a big deal because if you can't get out into the county, you can't work out here. So having transit systems that connect the urban areas out can also fill those employment opportunities," Elliott said.

More information on fares and schedules for the four routes are expected to be made available closer to launch date.

now