MANITOULIN – United Manitoulin Islands Transit (UMIT) is hopeful to get bus services started in the central to eastern Manitoulin Island area by mid-July on a free trial basis for riders for the first month.
“We want to introduce the new transit system to local residents, and hopefully the service will be able to fill the personal transportation needs of residents. For example, we hope the service will hopefully serve elderly people with no personal or limited vehicle transportation accessibility to get to medical appointments, grocery shopping or to visit friends in another area,” stated Joahnna Berti, executive director of UMIT last week.
“We hope and anticipate having the service up and running by mid-July,” said Ms. Berti. She said providing the service has been three years in the making, through the March of Dimes, Kenjgewin Teg and the Municipality of Central Manitoulin.
For now, the UMIT bus service will not take in the entire Manitoulin Island area. “Phase one will be centralized on the central and eastern parts of the Island, and the second phase, one or two years down the road, will include the West End of the Island, if there is enough interest and ridership,” said Ms. Berti. She pointed out phase one and the start of the service will include routes between Little Current, Manitowaning, Mindemoya, M’Chigeeng, Aundeck Omni Kaning and Sheguiandah. “As you know a feasibility study was done for the service over the past three years to see where the most customer traffic would come from,” she noted.
“We intend to graduate into the other areas of the Island in the second phase of the project,” continued Ms. Berti. She explained there are ‘connector’ plans in place to have a taxi feeder service for other communities like Gore Bay, Evansville, Kagawong, where people can take a taxi ride to Little Current or Mindemoya and then hook up with the bus service there.
The bus service will operate Monday to Fridays, said Ms. Berti. “A.J. Bus Lines will provide the transportation services, and there will be a morning and an afternoon run, travelling one way in the morning and the other way in the afternoon. The bus to be used is a 15-passenger vehicle and is wheelchair accessible. There will also be bike racks for storage on the bus for those people who are engaging in micro-travel excursions.
The bus stops will be in place in the next four to six weeks, continued Ms. Berti. “We are just finalizing the schedule with A.J. Bus Lines and stops with municipalities,” said Ms. Berti. She added the rates will be $5 to $7 per trip, each way, and customers will have the opportunity to pre-pay for tickets. As well, there will be weekly and monthly passes; and there will be a fare box stationed on the bus itself.
Ms. Berti noted that with the COVID-19 pandemic, “there will be an enhanced cleaning schedule for the bus, hand sanitizers on the bus for customers to use upon entering the bus and other safety measures to ensure social distancing is adhered to. Face masks will also be strongly encouraged as well.”