Ontario Northland takes inaugural Manitoulin bus trip

This 35 food mini coach Temsa was the demo ride for Manitoulin’s inaugural bus trip last week to map out a tentative route. The Ontario Northland bus that will service Manitoulin will be similar to the above model. Photo by Robin Burridge

Maps tentative new bus route

MANITOULIN—Ontario Northland is preparing for the launch of its new Manitoulin bus service and was on Manitoulin last week mapping out the tentative route.

The Expositor got a sneak peak at the new bus service and route, hopping aboard the demo bus, a 35-foot Temsa, for the trip.

“We are planning to start the service in late March or early April of this year,” said Ontario Northland Senior Manager of Bus Operations Ken Grube as the bus made its way from Little Current to Aundeck Omni Kaning. “The bus will be a mini coach, either a 35 foot with 36 seats or 30 foot with 34 seats.”

“The Manitoulin bus will be similar to this one with a washroom, be wheelchair accessible, have Wi-Fi and individual electrical outlets at each seat so people are able to charge their devices,” added Mr. Grube.

The trip started at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current. The hotel has signed on to be the first agency location (selling tickets) on Manitoulin.

“The bus’s home terminal will be in Sudbury,” Mr. Grube explained. “The bus will be leaving Sudbury at 5 pm and travelling to Little Current (with a stop in Espanola). It will then do the Island route. The following morning it will loop the Island the opposite direction and then head back to Sudbury. The Sudbury stops will include Laurentian University, Health Sciences North and the Northland bus terminal on the Kingsway. The bus will also stop in Espanola at DFR Family Restaurant. It will operate five days a week.”

Although the agencies in the other communities haven’t been selected yet, the bus will be stopping in Aundeck Omni Kaning, M’Chigeeng, Kagawong, Gore Bay, Spring Bay, Mindemoya, Sandfield, South Baymouth, Wiikwemkoong, M’Chigeeng and Sheguiandah. The agencies will not only sell tickets, but will also be the pick up and drop off location in each area. During last week’s trip, Ontario Northland also explored adding a stop in Evansville due to feedback from a recent Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) meeting.

“We supply each of the agencies with a monitor, the system, a printer and provide staff training,” explained Ontario Northland Agency Sales Coordinator Marc Dubeau. “We have some locations in mind to be agencies and I will be approaching them soon. We just wanted to get some more feedback from the community about the route first.”

Along the way, Mr. Dubeau pointed to locations in each community he hoped to secure as agencies, noting that ample parking and a central community location were key factors.

The Expositor’s fellow passengers included inaugural bus tripper Guy Dumas of March of Dimes Canada (MODC) who is spearheading the United Manitoulin Transit, a committee of service providers and Island organizations looking to improve transportation on Manitoulin.

Although the committee was struck prior to Ontario Northland announcing the new Manitoulin bus route, Mr. Dumas said that they will still be moving forward seeking funding for a feasibility study on improving and expanding transportation on Manitoulin.

“Ontario Northland has been seeking feedback from us about the route and new service,” explained Mr. Dumas. “This service will be great for Manitoulin, but we are still moving forward on a feasibility study.”

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) recently announced that it would be launching a 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 intercommunity bus.

“There is funding out there for municipalities and First Nations to develop their own infrastructure to help supplement the Ontario Northland service,” said Mr. Dumas. “I’m encouraging municipalities and Indigenous communities to access these funds.”

Although the cost of the Manitoulin bus service hasn’t been officially set yet, Mr. Grube said that they will be keeping ticket costs as reasonable as possible and that passengers shouldn’t expect to pay more then $20 a trip.

“We also have a ‘track my bus’ feature through the Ontario Northland website that allows passengers to see where the bus is on its route,” said Mr. Dubeau. “Individuals will also be able to book and reserve tickets and view the schedule online.”

The bus service will also allow individuals to ship parcels which will be same day or next day delivery.

“Passengers travelling  with their bike will be able to purchase a bike box for $20 which will be stored in the luggage compartment under the bus,” added Mr. Grube. “The box will ensure that both the bike and other passengers’ luggage is protected.”

Ontario Northland will be expanding its bus service to other areas in the north as well including Espanola, Sault Ste Marie, Wawa and White River.

“The new routes will make life easier for Northerners by connecting our passengers to hospitals and college and university campuses,” said a press release from Ontario Northland. “The expansion is part of the provincial government’s investment into improved intercommunity bus transportation in the North.”

“We’re adding over 750 kilometers and 20 communities to our system,” added Director of Passenger Operations Tracy MacPhee. “We look forward to conveniently connecting passengers where they need to be; whether for medical appointments, school, travel or family visits.”

For more information about the Manitoulin bus service and for a full list of bus stops visit Ontario Northland’s website, www.ontarionorthland.ca.