Motorcoach operators compete for SW Ontario passengers

By Transport Action Ontario | Intercity Rail and Bus

Aug 02
Motorcoach without operator branding

Following the deregulation of Ontario’s highway motorcoach services in June 2021, three motorcoach operators have launched services between Windsor, London and Toronto, with stops at other cities across southwestern Ontario.

Note: The schedules and routes described below are subject to change, please check with the motorcoach operators for current routes, schedules are fares.

Rider Express

Rider Express, launched their service between Toronto, London and Windsor on July 12, adding a stop at Toronto Pearson International Airport on July 27.

The route starts in Windsor just outside the bus terminal on Chatham Street, stops in Chatham outside the bus depot, in London next to the Petro Canada at the intersection of Exeter and Wellington roads, in Kitchener outside the Tim Hortons at 4285 King St E., at Toronto Pearson International Airport’s Viscount Station, and arrives in Toronto outside Union Station on Front Street where onward connections can be made to Rider Express services to Ottawa or to trains and other bus lines at Union Station.

Fares are $60 from Windsor to Toronto and $30 from London to Toronto, including the first two items of luggage. A through ticket from Windsor to Ottawa costs $110.

WindsorChathamLondon (Exeter)KitchenerPearsonToronto
10:0011:1012:1513:2014:2515:00
TorontoPearsonKitchenerLondon (Exeter)ChathamWindsor
17:0017:4518:5920:0021:0522:10

Although the choice of the Windsor Transit and Chatham-Kent Transit terminals offers the potential for good transit connections in the morning, regular transit services in both cities end early in the evening. Chatham offers an on-demand service until midnight.

On August 16, 2021 Rider Express will be adding a London commuter bus service, running Monday to Friday from downtown London to Toronto, via Mississauga (Dixie Outlet Mall). Although a stop in Hamilton was mentioned in the first announcement, the service will launch without that location.

London (Downtown)HamiltonMississaugaToronto
06:0007:3008:0008:45
TorontoMississaugaHamiltonLondon (Downtown)
17:0017:4518:1519:45

Megabus

Megabus, which operated several other routes in Ontario prior to deregulation and also recently added a Toronto-Ottawa service, has partnered with Badder Bus, a regional operator that has provided southwestern Ontario with charter and school bus services since 1950, to launch a service between London and Toronto on July 15, 2021, with the intention to extend the route to Windsor at a future date.

Initially, the buses will depart from the London Flying J truck stop on Highbury Avenue south of Highway 401, a location with is not served by London Transit, although Badder Bus have indicated this may be a temporary measure until a better location can be arranged. The buses run non-stop to and from Toronto Union Station Bus Terminal, initially twice daily with fares starting from $25. Megabus offers the option to reserve a seat toward the front of the bus for an extra $5. Connecting journeys to Ottawa, Montreal or other destinations served by Megabus currently require the purchase of separate tickets.

London (Flying J)Toronto USBT
06:3009:35
12:0515:10

Toronto USBTLondon (Flying J)
10:4513:50
16:3019:35

Onex Bus

Onex Bus started its services between London and Toronto on July 28, 2021, with six weekend trips eastbound and five westbound. Two of the eastbound trips run direct from downtown London, outside the old Greyhound station, to downtown Toronto, stopping outside the former Toronto Coach Terminal on Bay Street; and two make a single intermediate stop in Woodstock, at the parking lot just off Highway 401 near the Tesla Supercharger. The other two services run via the Woodstock Transit Terminal, Kitchener Sportsworld, and Mississauga Square One.

Westbound, three trips run via Mississauga, Kitchener and the Woodstock Transit Terminal; and two are express, calling only at the Woodstock Supercharger location. The first three eastbound trips and the day and all westbound trips make additional stops in London at Victoria Hospital, White Oaks Mall, and south of highway 401.  

The services which stop at the Woodstock Transit Terminal could be used to connect with T:GO intercommunity transit services to Tillsonburg and Middlesex County Connect services to Ingersoll and Thorndale; the Kitchener stop provides connections with Grand River Transit including the iXpress bus to Cambridge and the Fairway LRT station; and there are connections with London Transit at White Oaks and downtown. The intercommunity bus service to Sarnia stops a short distance away from the downtown London terminal, and Onex Bus have also indicated via social media that Windsor and Sarnia should “stay tuned” for future service extensions.

Fares from London are $30, including two items of luggage.

LondonWoodstockKitchenerMississaugaToronto
05:3006:2008:20
07:0007:5008:4009:3010:05
11:3012:3013:2014:0014:40
13:1516:15
14:1017:20
19:0019:5521:45
TorontoMississaugaKitchenerWoodstockLondon
08:0009:4510:35
09:1509:5010:4011:2512:25
11:1511:5012:4013:2514:25
15:3016:1017:0517:4018:45
17:3519:3020:25

Services to Niagara Falls

Both Onex Bus and Rider Express have announced intentions to operate services between Niagara Falls and Toronto, with Rider Express setting a start date of August 16, 2021. Megabus already serves this route, with stops in St. Catharines and Grimsby, three times daily.

Analysis

These schedules are all subject to change as each operator adjusts to find their niche in the market, and may need to be retimed if traffic congestion on the region’s highways returns to pre-pandemic levels of misery. Notable omissions include none of the new carriers offering an early morning service west from Kitchener, nor any late evening departures from Toronto to serve the sports and theatre markets, which are both also glaring gaps in the VIA Rail schedule.

Transport Action believes that it is important for motorcoach operators to enter into interline ticketing and package service agreements, increasing the range of destinations passengers can reliably reach; to select stops that provide safe places for passengers to wait for their bus; and to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles on all routes.

While it is encouraging to see former Greyhound routes being restored by new operators, we would prefer to see new motorcoach routes that complement passenger rail, bringing passengers to and from hubs and offering integrated ticketing, rather than directly competing for the same traffic. For example, connecting St. Thomas or Goderich to London, services which were lost in 2013 following the collapse of AboutTown Transportation and demise of its NorthLink routes, would be very useful contributions to rebuilding an effective travel network for the region.

London is now exploring the opportunity to create a downtown rail and bus hub, and it will also be important to establish more connections with intercommunity bus services throughout the region. See ride-sct.ca for current information on intercommunity bus services, or Sean Marshall’s GIS map of SW Ontario transit connections.

Onex Bus (Ontario Express Bus) is a Mississauga-based consortium of family-owned limousine and charter bus companies, and they have also announced their intention to add services between Toronto and Peterborough and between Toronto and Sudbury in the near future.

Megabus is a brand operated by Coach Canada, a subsidiary of Coach USA. Coach USA was formerly owned by Stagecoach Group PLC and was sold to US private equity firm Variant Equity Advisors in 2019.

Rider Express, is a Canadian privately-owned company based in Saskatoon, which was launched in 2017 initially to serve routes in Saskatchewan lost after the abrupt abolition of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, has since grown to provide motorcoach services across western Canada, extending services to Vancouver and Winnipeg. Rider Express and Ontario Northland are working to establish an interline agreement to allow passengers to travel between Rider Express services in Western Canada and its new southern Ontario destinations.

Photograph: Prevost H3-45 Motorcoach – Jason Lawrence