RIDERSHIP ON THE RISE WITH HURON SHORES AREA TRANSIT
Service provision is contracted to Voyago, a leading passenger mobility service provider serving 30,000 people daily. (Submitted photos)
Serving a combined rural population of just more than 36,000 in Lambton Shores, South Huron, Bluewater, North Middlesex, and Kettle & Stony Point First Nation, Huron Shores Area Transit’s (HSAT) first two operational years (2020 and 2021) were shaped by government imposed shut-downs and stay-at-home advisories, not an ideal time to launch a new transit system!
In 2021, HSAT had 1,600 passengers. By the end of August 2022, ridership exceeded 5,000 passengers in eight months. Compared to the same month of the previous year, that’s a 594 per cent difference! If the ridership trend continues, by the end of 2022, ridership could top 7,500 passengers.
Not surprisingly, the area’s summer months witnessed a bump in ridership. Buses traveling from London to Grand Bend were filled to capacity, necessitating two additional bus runs every Saturday and Sunday from mid-July to Labour Day.
“It’s been a busy summer,” said Susan Mills, the new Transit coordinator who took over the role at the end of June this year. “Beginning about mid-July, we had regular passengers telling us they could not get on the bus because it was already full when it arrived at their stop. We also took immediate action and doubled the number of bus runs from London to Grand Bend.”
The highest-performing stop in the transit system is located opposite Masonville Mall; a shared London Transit stop, which accounted for 2,004 passengers. Similarly, Lambton Mall in Sarnia accounted for 409 passengers. Other top-performing bus stops include University Hospital in London, 221 passengers; Kettle Point Plaza, 215 passengers and Sanders Street stop in Exeter, 204 passengers. Thirty riders used the wheelchair/scooter passenger spots.
In February of this year, Route 3, which services towns and villages of Bluewater, was extended to Goderich. HSAT’s Route 3 passes through St. Joseph, Zurich, Hensall, and Bayfield on its way to Goderich. In Bayfield there are two stops – one in front of the Bayfield Town Hall and one on Cameron Street at Hwy. 21.
“Although usage of that stop is still low, with the recent partnership agreement between South Huron Hospital and Alexandra Marine and General Hospital, the need to access hospital appointments in Goderich is expected to rise along with ridership,” said Mills.
“It was interesting to discover which bus stops were the most used and who’s using the bus system,” said Mills. “We get many inquiries through the Facebook page, mostly from young adults and twenty-somethings who use the bus to get to work, go shopping, and socialize and now use it to get to university and college. We have one stop right on the Lambton College campus. We’ve even had parents send us testimonials about how convenient it is that their kids can get around without relying on a drive from Mom or Dad.”
Although the majority of passengers, 82 per cent, pay cash, about 15 per cent of passengers use Smart Cards to pay for bus rides. Launched in February 2021, 991 active tap-and-go Smart Cards are now in use. Smart Cards enable passengers to set up a transit account and add dollar value to their card by credit card or debit visa, monitor their balance, transfer the balance of a lost card to a replacement card and obtain receipts for tax purposes. Specially marked Smart Card Packages are available from local libraries, health centres, grocery stores, and other handy local retail locations.
When weather, construction, vehicle breakdown, or other unforeseen event delays or interrupts service, passengers can rely on several methods of notification, including social media announcements, email, and mobile apps like Google Maps and the “Transit” app (transitapp.com). Coming soon will be an easy-to-use texting service with notifications going directly to a passenger’s mobile. Every bus stop will have a QR code and bus stop number. By scanning the QR code, passengers can get bus schedule information and sign up for service notifications from their cell phones.
“This was one of the things I was really happy to get into place,” said Mills. “I have spent time standing at bus stops and wondering when the next bus would arrive. I wish we had today’s technology then. If we have a delay or service interruption, I can quickly get the word out to our passengers.”
Mills is also working to improve the overall transit experience by re-evaluating bus stop performance, the distance between bus stops, bus schedules, transit shelters, and access to bus and schedule information at every bus stop.
Mills noted, “There’s a lady who walks almost an hour to the Kettle Point Plaza bus stop, and although she loves the access to public transit, we want to reduce that distance. We hope to add a bus stop between Port Franks and Kettle & Stony Point First Nation to break up that distance and make it easier for passengers to get on the bus.”
With pandemic closures in the rear view, the promotion of the bus system has increased to bring greater awareness among residents and build ridership. Over the next six to eight months, look for advertising on outdoor billboards, electronic boards, social media campaigns, print and radio ads, vehicle wraps, and admail campaigns.
Visit www.huronshoresareatransit.ca for information about routes, schedules, fares, Smart Cards, and more. Or to speak with a live operator about times and schedules, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, call 1-888-465-0783.
HSAT is funded by the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Community Transportation Grant Program (CTGP) to support local and intercommunity bus service and to make transit within and between communities a reality. HSAT is also supported by its municipal partners and its passengers through fares. Municipal partners include Lambton Shores, Kettle & Stony Point First Nation, the Municipality of South Huron, the Municipality of Bluewater, and the Municipality of North Middlesex.
HSAT is a member of Southwest Community Transit (SCT), an association of member municipalities and non-profit organizations in Southwest Ontario working to increase travel connections between under-served areas, rural communities, and urban cities. Service provision is contracted to Voyago, a leading passenger mobility service provider serving 30,000 people daily.
CKNX RADIOTHON BENEFITS AREA HOSPITALS
Nicole Jutzi (left), Executive director of the Wingham & District Hospital Foundation, accepts a donation from Sarah Bender, Marketing and Communications coordinator for West Wawanosh Mutual Insurance as part of the 20th annual CKNX Radiothon. (Submitted photo)
The CKNX Radiothon event has a strong tradition of generating fundraising dollars in support of local hospitals, and this year was no exception. The 21st Annual CKNX Health Care Heroes Radiothon took to the airwaves on Oct. 15 and raised an incredible $364,559.60 in support of the eight participating hospitals in Mid-Western Ontario.
Continuing with a virtual format this year, donations were accepted during the all-day broadcast on AM920, which featured heartwarming stories from patients, as well as interviews with health care professionals and volunteers outlining the urgent medical equipment needs at each hospital. A number of philanthropic businesses and organizations, including: Bruce Power, Germania Mutual Insurance, West Wawanosh Mutual Insurance, AXIOM Mutual Insurance Co, Howick Mutual Insurance, Howick Optimists and Brussels Legion Branch 218 directed special gifts towards several hospital foundations.
Among the projects funded by this year’s Radiothon are: a laparoscopic tower, colonoscopes, a gastroscope, an ultrasound machine, cardiac monitor upgrades, an anesthetic machine, a steam autoclave and operating room lighting.
When the Radiothon went off air at 4 p.m., the grand total of funds raised was $364,559.60. This total is expected to grow as the participating hospital foundations continue to accept donations towards their projects until the end of the year.
This year’s CKNX Radiothon benefitted the following eight hospital foundations: Clinton Hospital Foundation, Hanover & District Hospital Foundation, Listowel Memorial Hospital Foundation, Mount Forest Louise Marshall Hospital Foundation, Palmerston and District Hospital Foundation, Seaforth Community Hospital Foundation, Walkerton and District Hospital Foundation and Wingham & District Hospital Foundation
Since its inception in 2002, the CKNX Health Care Heroes Radiothon has raised more than $13,589,000 in support of quality health care for rural area hospitals. To find out how to contribute to your hospital’s Radiothon goal, visit: Radiothon.
HURON AREA NEWCOMER FUND LAUNCHED
From left: Christine Marshall of the Wingham Community Connectors, along with John Maaskant and Michael Daley of the Goderich Lions Club, are among the committee members of the Huron Newcomer Fund. (Submitted photo)
A local initiative kicked off recently to support Huron County newcomers from Ukraine and other parts of the world.
The Goderich Lions Club, in collaboration with various community organizations, has launched the Huron Area Newcomer Fund.
“The Fund was formed to support immigrants and refugees settling in the Huron area within their first 18 months of living in Canada,” said John Maaskant, chair of the Huron Area Newcomer Fund Committee. “The intent is to meet demonstrated needs caused by unforeseen or extraordinary costs which are beyond the capacity of supportive agencies or individuals to provide.”
Since April 2022, more than 40 people from Ukraine have arrived in Huron County, most of them billeting with host families. Refugees from other parts of the world have also settled in Huron County recently.
“Up to $1,500 towards one family is available if a newcomer applies for funding,” Maaskant said.
The fund is currently seeking donations to support those who arrive in Huron County.
People interested can direct their donation to the Goderich Lions Club, with a note indicating that the money is to be directed to the Newcomer Fund.
Representatives from the Wingham Community Connectors, Goderich Ministerial Association and the Huron County Immigration Partnership are collaborating on this project with the Goderich Lions Club.
Please visit the Goderich Lions Club webpage for more information: Newcomer Fund