New Gatineau Park shuttle bus launches this weekend

People in Ottawa-Gatineau will have a new option to get to some of Gatineau Park's most popular attractions in August and October.

Pilot project connects Ottawa to Champlain Lookout, Lac Philippe

Parkbus already runs successful routes from Toronto and Vancouver. Now it's looking to gauge people's interest in Gatineau Park. (Parkbus)

People in Ottawa-Gatineau will have a new option to get to some of Gatineau Park's most popular attractions in August and October.

Saturday marks the first return trip shuttle from the corner of George Street and Sussex Drive to Pink Lake, the Mackenzie King Estate, the King Mountain Trail and the Champlain Lookout.

Another route takes people to Lac Philippe.

It's a pilot project between the park's managers at the National Capital Commission and Parkbus, a company founded in 2010 to bus people from urban areas to popular parks.

"We first approached the NCC, though this was really the result of dozens and dozens of people [asking us for it] over the years," Boris Issaev, the company's co-founder and CEO, said in an interview.

Parkbus co-founders Alex Berlyand, right, and Boris Issaev, left, came to Canada as youths. By their mid-20s, the two had launched Parkbus to connect more Canadians with the great outdoors. (Norman Goh/Parkbus)

In Toronto, Parkbus connects travellers to locations such as Algonquin Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Elora Gorge, while buses also regularly run out of Vancouver. There are also pilot projects in cities such as Halifax.

Issaev said the new service will likely appeal to a mix of locals and tourists, with capital residents on day trips likely making up the majority of travellers.

"In Toronto about a quarter of our demographic are tourists," he said. "I would expect between a quarter to a half of our visitors to Gatineau Park would be [tourists]."

"Car ownership rates in Ottawa are higher," he added. "At the same time there are a lot of tourists that come through Ottawa that don't have a car; they come by train or bus from Toronto or Montreal."

8 Saturdays

The Champlain Lookout shuttle runs Aug. 3 and 31, leaving Ottawa at 9 a.m. and returning at about 12:30 p.m.

It costs $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors and $10 for children.

Issaev said Thursday morning that more than half the seats for the first bus are already booked.

The Lac Philippe bus is the same price and runs Aug. 17 and 24, then Oct. 5, 12, 19 and 26, leaving at 9 a.m. and returning at about 3:45 p.m.

Issaev said the company will look at passenger satisfaction and the financial sustainability of the service after this test run.

The NCC's website indicates its free Fall Rhapsody bus service will connect Ottawa and Gatineau to Champlain Lookout and Camp Fortune Oct. 5 to 27, after that Parkbus route is done.

With files from Denise Fung


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