MANITOULIN – The United Manitoulin Islands Transit (UMIT) project has been slightly delayed but not deterred due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with service now expected to begin in mid-July as opposed to its original June 1 target.
“We’re just finalizing the last stages of the bus stops and we will be erecting them in hopefully the next four to six weeks,” UMIT executive director Joahnna Berti told The Expositor.
The transit group has its vehicle and crew lined up and is waiting for its commercial vehicle licence from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
Original plans for the start-up of the service have not changed, including the proposed trial routes between Mindemoya, Little Current and Manitowaning. The service will also be entirely free for its first month of operation.
Ms. Berti acknowledged that the realities of the pandemic may have affected the population’s view of public transportation, but she assured The Expositor that UMIT would be carefully considering passenger health and safety.
“We’re going to have hand sanitizer and an enhanced cleaning schedule on the bus, and other safety measures to ensure social distancing is adhered to on the bus,” said Ms. Berti.
Those measures include placing stickers on certain seats to temporarily take them out of service to increase physical distance between passengers. Face masks will be strongly encouraged and Ms. Berti hinted that those masks may take on a promotional role as well.
“We hope to make our service comfortable and safe for everybody,” she said.
The non-profit transit group as always seeks business and individual members to join the ranks as users of the service. The collective is also actively recruiting board members.