Bus Transportation Announcement Sets Region on Route!

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Agreement Will See Public – Private Sector Co-operation

THUNDER BAY – TRANSPORTATION – Getting around in Northern Ontario can be a challenge. Our region is seemingly centered on owning a car, truck or van. However, an announcement in Thunder Bay today seeks to shift that by providing greater access to bus transportation.

Ontario is making it easier and more convenient for people to get where they need to go by improving transportation services within and between communities across Northern Ontario.

Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, and Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, made the announcement in Thunder Bay today alongside MPP Bill Mauro.

The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) will increase bus service in the Northeast and will work in collaboration with existing private carriers to introduce service to communities in the Northwest.

The communities that will benefit from this collaboration include Hearst, Hornepayne, White River, Red Lake, Emo, Rainy River, Fort Frances, Atikokan, Red Rock and others.

Ontario Northland Grant Bailey, Ministers Del Duca, Mauro and Gravelle with Kasper Wabinski
Ontario Northland Grant Bailey, Ministers Del Duca, Mauro and Gravelle with Kasper Wabinski

Improved services will provide vital links between communities that will help people living in Northern Ontario travel to medical and personal appointments, attend school, visit with friends and family, and access other essential services.

Return service will be offered five days a week between all communities serviced by the ONTC or private carriers. Ridership will be monitored regularly to ensure customer demand is met and service is expanded as needed.

Proposed agreement will see co-operation between the public and private sectors to provide bus service
Proposed agreement will see co-operation between the public and private sectors to provide bus service

Ontario is also launching a new Community Transportation Grant Program to help municipalities, Indigenous communities and other organizations throughout the province provide more travel options in areas that are not served, or underserved by public transit and inter-community bus. The program will make it more convenient for seniors, students, persons living with disabilities and others to access essential services in their communities, connect with other transportation services, and travel between cities and towns.QUICK FACTS

  • Ontario is investing $5.2 million in new buses and technology enhancements to improve inter-community bus services delivered through the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC).
  • The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission is an operational enterprise agency of the province providing intercommunity bus, Polar Bear Express passenger rail, rail freight, and remanufacturing and repair services in Northern Ontario.
  • In 2016-17, 243,482 passengers used ONTC bus services.
  • With the Community Transportation Grant Program, up to $30 million over five years is available to municipalities, who can apply for grants starting today. An additional $10 million will be available to Indigenous communities, Indigenous-led organizations and not-for-profit organizations starting in summer 2018.
  • Improving intercommunity bus service in Northern Ontario is a key part of the province’s Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy.
  • Improving intercommunity bus service is part of Ontario’s Aging with Confidence plan to support seniors by helping them remain independent, healthy and active, safe and socially-connected.

Air travel within the region is better now than it has been, but passenger jet service from the Thunder Bay International Airport is no longer an option. The TBIA is the link for northern communities providing access for people to get to and from their homes in the north.

The northern air hub for most passenger service is in Sioux Lookout, and for freight is Pickle Lake.

Scheduled air travel into Dryden, Kenora, and other communities are not available. That is where the need for bus transportation is key.

This is where the announcement that Ontario Northland Transportation and Kasper Transportation will provide more options for people trying to get to many communities across the North with expanded routes, and some coordination of services is going to be a benefit to the region.

Kasper Transportation has started running passenger service to Winnipeg connecting from Sioux Lookout. This service is likely to see part of the new routes, including a possible southern route from Thunder Bay through Fort Frances, and Kenora start.

The announcement pleases Northern Ontario Municipal Association. Iain Angus states that this co-operation between the public and private sector will really help people across the region.