Starting Aug. 4, residents will be able to take a bus that runs from the GO Station in Bradford, through the hamlet of Bond Head and Village of Beeton, all the way to Alliston.
It’s Route 5 of Simcoe County’s LINX Transit system – two buses that will provide hourly service between Alliston in New Tecumseth, and the GO Train station in Bradford West Gwillimbury, Mon. through Fri.
The route includes 3 stops in Alliston, two stops in Beeton, one stop in Bond Head, and three stops in Bradford – and when the buses start to roll at 7:20 a.m. on Tuesday, the ride will be free.
Both the start time and the free fare reflect the impact of the pandemic, explained Dennis Childs, Transit Manager.
“What we’ve seen in our ridership is actually a decline due to people working at home,” Childs said. “That’s why a later start time in the morning. That’s our COVID-19 schedule.”
The County had already launched 4 other bus routes (Route 1- Penetanguishene/Midland to Barrie; Route 2 – Wasaga Beach to Barrie; Route 3 – Orillia to Barrie; Route 4 – Collingwood to Wasaga Beach) over the past three years.
During the first two months of 2020, ridership on those routes exceeded projections by an average of 86 percent – but when COVID hit in March, the numbers dropped substantially, by up to 70 percent.
“Now that we’re in Stage 3, we’re anticipating the numbers will go up,” Childs said.
But with lower ridership, uncertainty in the workplace and a natural slowdown in summer, the decision was made to waive the fares during the month of August, to help build demand.
So riders won’t be charged the regular cash fare, of $2 or $4 depending on the zones travelled, until the day after Labour Day. On Sept. 8, drivers will start collecting exact cash fares on the buses.
“This will be great for our community,” said Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer at the official launch of the new service, held in New Tecumseth on Thursday.
“It will be right through Bond Head, a bus route from Bond Head to Bradford,” Mayor Keffer said. “It will be a great presence of the County in our Town.”
There are 3 stops planned in Bradford - at the Walmart Supercentre, Toronto Street, and at the GO Train Station – although it was suggested that the stops could be ‘tweaked’, and the Toronto Street stop moved, e.g. to a location closer to the BWG Family Health Centre.
“It’s all about helping our residents become more mobile,” said County Warden George Connell.
“It speaks to the need that was identified, for easier, more affordable access to health care facilities, educational facilities and the workplace,” the Warden said, especially identifying a need “in the south part of the County where we have seen growth,” and what he described as “an increasing number of students and workers… seeking affordable, reliable and environmentally-responsible transportation options.”
The bus that will be travelling Route 5 has a price tag of “$425,000, plus the technology. You’re looking at almost half a million dollars,” said David Parks, Director of Planning, Development and Transit with the County.
It’s a ‘clean diesel’ bus equipped with a low-emission engine, and features that improve accessibility, including a low floor, grab bars, pre-boarding announcements, a digital sign and audio presentation of stop information, and wider-than-normal entrance doors.
Each bus can accommodate two wheelchairs or electric scooters at a time. The buses also can ‘kneel’, making access easier.
But the LINX Transit System will also offer door-to-door LINX+service, using a smaller mobility bus for those unable to utilize the conventional buses, due to issues of accessibility. At least one mobility bus will be assigned to Route 5, available “on demand,” noted Parks. “We have to comply with Ontario regulations.”
Residents who need to use the LINX+service can register by clicking here, or by calling 1-800-263-3199.
The new bus route is part of a 5-year, $13 million plan to improve connectivity in the County. The final route, Route 6, will link the communities of Penetanguishene, Midland, Tay, Severn and Orillia, has been delayed to due difficulties in acquiring the needed buses, but should be up and running by this fall.
Warden Connell recognized the importance of a bus route at the south end of the County. “The launch of Route 5 connecting Alliston to Bradford West Gwillimbury is another important step towards linking our residents to important service and business hub throughout Simcoe County,” he said.
The bus trip between Bradford and Bond Head will cost riders only $2, once fares are introduced in September. In the meantime, residents can ride the bus for free, every weekday, starting on Tuesday. The first westbound bus leaves Bradford’s Go Train station at 7:20 a.m.; the first eastbound bus leaves from the New Tecumseth Recreation Centre on Industrial Parkway at 7:20 a.m. The last bus runs at 6:20 p.m.