Ticket to ride: Regional bus from St. Thomas to London in the works
ST. THOMAS, ONT. -- Don’t punch your ticket yet, but a clear plan is in place to put a daily regional bus service into operation from St. Thomas to London and back again.
It would be welcome news for those who struggle to commute between the two cities.
The plan has proceeded far enough that it is now being ‘driven’ direct to the province with an almost $1-million funding request attached.
St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston says he’ll meet with Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney in January to discuss the proposal, which has been put to paper.
As drafted, Preston says a St. Thomas Transit bus will travel to London several times a day, on the half-hour, departing from Wal-Mart in the south end of St. Thomas and terminating at White Oaks Mall in London’s south end.
The same bus – at least once per day – will divert for a run to Aylmer and Port Stanley.
Preston says it’s all part of the plan to return long-departed regional transit service to Elgin County and London.
“Regional transportation in Ontario used to be the lifeblood of this area, to be able to get to London, St. Thomas, to Simcoe, or wherever else it might be. It’s disappeared.”
It’s been over six decades since the London & Port Stanley Railway ended service between London and St. Thomas, after it fell out of favour with the advent of the two-car family.
But Preston believes this time around it will be different, as trends are again turning in favour of public transit.
Still, St. Thomas officials are deliberately asking for a three-year pilot project to ensure it will.
“That way we can tweak it,” Preston says.
Depending on ridership, he believes the service has a potential to pay for itself.
St. Thomas estimates it will cost $975,000 over three years to operate the regional bus.
Preston says the suggested fare is $10 one-way and $15 round-trip.
Undeniably, that’s far less than a cab or Uber between the Railway City and Forest City.
Outside the main transit hub, the proposed bus is scheduled to depart from, rider Joel Terry is supportive of the idea, as he waits for an in-city route.
“I don’t have a personal vehicle. I would absolutely relish taking a bus into London.”
Other riders tell CTV News they too would use the service, citing better access to jobs, education, and family.
Preston echoes their thoughts, adding his belief the economy will improve as those without cars have more access to transit.
“Someone wakes up in St. Thomas and has to be at Fanshawe College today, there is just no way today to get there. Someone wakes up in London and has a job at factory in St. Thomas, let’s say Masco, they can’t get there today. This would allow that to happen.”
Preston says the plan has been shared with municipal colleagues in London and with Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, a key partner in the discussions.
Preston is hopeful the Ford government will move quickly, allowing the service to commence by the end of 2020.