Ridership of the Leamington to Windsor bus exceeds expectations. Meet the people riding it
Reporter Jonathan Pinto takes a round trip on the new regional transit service
In July, a Transit Windsor bus started running from Leamington, Ont. to Windsor.
According to Transit Windsor executive director Pat Delmore, ridership on the route has exceeded expectations, with numbers sometimes double the original projection of ten riders per day.
With six months of service under its wheels, I wanted to know more about the people using this regional transit service — so I hopped aboard LTW's early morning Windsor to Leamington bus Thursday to find out.
The first person I encountered was driver Brandon Farrand, who has been behind the wheel with Transit Windsor for six years. He told me he really enjoys the LTW 42 — with only four stops, each many kilometres apart, it's a nice change of pace from the constant stop-and-go of a city bus.
I was the only passenger on the bus during our ride toward Leamington, something I understand is not entirely unusual for the early morning run.
As an occasional transit rider myself, the experience of riding a city bus on Highways 401 and 3 was a little surreal — as was the eerie glow of the county greenhouses lighting up the night sky.
As we pulled into the Leamington Kinsmen Recreation Complex, a number of passengers were already waiting. St. Clair College student Grace Tiessen was one of the first riders I spoke with. Before the LTW 42 service started, she used to have to catch a ride with a family member to campus.
"Pretty much whoever was available would have to go work me into their schedule," she said. "Other than the fact that it's really early [in the morning] — like REALLY early — [LTW 42 has] actually been kind of a lifesaver."
The majority of riders I met were St. Clair College students, but not all of them took the service because of a lack of a personal vehicle. Some simply took the bus because the service — $15 for a single round trip, or $250 for a 30-day pass — was cheaper than paying for gas and parking.
Roshana Edwards is an international student from Jamaica who started at St. Clair in January. The availability of the LTW 42 service meant she could find more affordable housing in the county.
"I was going to live in Windsor, near the campus, where I could just walk or take a taxi," she told me. "But hearing about this bus, I made up my mind to [live] in Leamington."
One of the non-student passengers I chatted with was Rosa Ayala. She takes the LTW 42 once a week to shop, visit family and go to the doctor in Windsor.
"[Before this service] I didn't go [to Windsor] very much," said Ayala, noting that a taxi ride from Leamington to the city would cost $50. "I'm happy with the bus."
When I asked Ayala what she'd change about the LTW 42, she mentioned that Sunday service would be nice, as would a direct connection to Devonshire Mall, which currently involves a transfer.
Additional service was something the student riders mentioned as well, with some saying the mid-day bus leaves too early, meaning they have to wait a few hours until the evening ride.
In total, 17 passengers, not including myself, hopped aboard the LTW 42 in Leamington, Kingsville and Essex.
"When you implement a transit service, normally you're looking at an 18 month implementation to really get a true reflection of the impact," said Transit Windsor's Pat Delmore, who met with me when the bus arrived back at St. Clair College.
"Both municipalities are extremely pleased with the ridership numbers ... by having Essex and Kingsville included as well, it's really, truly, impacting the whole region," he said.
LTW 42 is considered a pilot project. It's being funded by the Province of Ontario's Community Transportation Grant Program, which is providing $606,400, and Leamington, which is spending $125,000. Fare revenue will fund the rest of service.
The total cost of LTW 42 is expected to be about $1 million until provincial funding ends in March 2023.
Jonathan live-tweeted his ride on LTW 42. Check them out through this Twitter Moment.
⚡️ “Who rides the LTW 42 bus from Leamington to Windsor?”<a href="https://t.co/CGvKXZgQwO">https://t.co/CGvKXZgQwO</a>—@jonathan_pinto