On September 3rd, Chatham-Kent will launch a new urban bus route and make a range of service adjustments, as the first step in responding to community advocacy for a significantly improved public transportation network to combat social isolation and to get people to available jobs, and to accommodate growing numbers of passengers, particularly students.
The new Route 5 (PDF map) will run hourly between 6.15am and 7.15pm, connecting downtown Chatham with St. Clair College, the convention centre, the new casino, and the VIA Rail station. The other four urban services will continue to run half-hourly, with some adjustments to their routes that are intended to make it easier for those buses to keep to their schedules.
A new midday trip on each of the three interurban routes will leave Chatham’s downtown terminal at 12.15pm, Monday to Friday excluding holidays, providing a much-requested half-day option for passengers using the services to travel to appointments in the city.
Over the last two years, people from communities across Chatham-Kent have spoken up for improved transportation, including public participation in the Smart Cities Challenge in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, and then raising the issue with rural and urban candidates in the municipal elections. This led to the formation of an official working group, bringing together citizens and municipal administration, and to the initiation of a strategic review which is expected to report back to council in early 2020.
Full details of the ongoing transit strategy review, and ways the public can continue to participate in it, can be found at: https://www.letstalkchatham-kent.ca/CKTransit-strategy
Other minor changes and pilot projects may be launched in advance of the full review. Meanwhile, Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program funding has been secured to implement some of the recommendations and improve the downtown terminal. Options under consideration include acquiring new municipally-owned transit vehicles; dynamic, on-demand routing of buses and smaller vehicles; extending services into the evening to better serve shift workers and evening entertainment; hubs in the larger communities with express services between them; and integration with bike or scooter rental facilities.
This community also recently launched adVANtage, a pilot project using an on-demand van to supplement accessible transportation and extend service to underserved citizens in rural areas. Details of how to use this service can be found at https://www.eriestclairhealthline.ca/displayService.aspx?id=190734
The adVANtage service is supported by Ontario’s Community Transportation Grants, a funding stream for rural transportation created in response to persistent pressure from citizens and municipalities across the region over the last few years. Advocacy works, let’s keep it up!