After several years of patient lobbying by rural citizens, transit activists, and local councils, 2020 is set to be a banner year for rural transit in Southwestern Ontario. Many of the projects funded through the Community Transportation Grants will come to fruition, and new bus services are expected to be in place by summer 2020.
The Community Transportation Grants were first announced in 2018, but with the change of provincial government and lack of central support or coordination for procurement, some routes have taken longer to start up than others. The Leamington – Windsor service, which uses existing Transit Windsor buses, has been running since July 2019.
Without regional coordination of transportation planning, something we believe is most certainly needed for Southwestern Ontario, there is as yet no comprehensive route map and schedule database to illustrate the full scope of the services being funded and introduced, but it will include several of the routes previously identified as high priorities by Transport Action Ontario and the Southwestern Ontario Transportation Alliance in the Network Southwest report published in 2014.
There were critical gaps in the projects that applied for the Community Transportation Grants, including St. Thomas – London, further illustrating the need for regional coordination, rather than a process dependent upon piecemeal grant applications, to maximize the social and economic impact of these investments, although the Mayor of St. Thomas is now requesting additional funding from the Ontario government to restore services on that route.
Here are the announcements for many of the new services funded by Community Transportation Grants:
Sarnia – London
Owen Sound – Guelph
Tillsonburg – Woodstock
Stratford – Kitchener/London
Leamington – Kingsville – Essex – Windsor
Brant e-Ride (on-demand)
Wellington County RideWell (on-demand)
Chatham-Kent adVANtage (on-demand)
These services join existing rural transit services in the region, including: