MUSKOKA – A bus service between Muskoka and Barrie is back on the road.
BACK IN BUSINESS.
Hammond Transportation’s Greg Hammond, pictured here in a file photo, said the Ontario Highway Transport Board has granted the Muskoka bus company a permanent licence to operate a bus service between Huntsville and Barrie with stops in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Washago and Orillia. But there is a catch.
File photo by Kim Good
Hammond Transportation’s Greg Hammond said the Ontario Highway Transport Board has granted the Muskoka bus company a permanent license to operate a bus service between Huntsville and Barrie with stops in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Washago and Orillia. But there is a catch.
“We got approval, not quite everything we were looking for, but we will be up and running in December,” said Hammond.
The company started operating the Corridor 11 Bus as a pilot project between Muskoka and Barrie on Sept. 24 to gauge ridership, pricing, schedules and routes. It was applying for a temporary operating licence at the same time. But it had to halt the service on Oct. 17 after a complaint from the publicly owned Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, which operates a bus service through the region as well.
Hammond Transportation now has a permanent licence to operate the bus service, but there are restrictions on it. Opposition from Ontario Northland prompted the restriction on the permanent licence.
“We were disappointed that our permanent license included some restrictions on ridership within Muskoka,” said Hammond.
Ontario Northland had asked Hammond Transportation for assurances that the Muskoka company would not pick-up and drop-off passengers between Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst, nor would it extend service to interline with Toronto connecting carriers at Orillia and Barrie.
The transport board’s licensing decision stated it could not control whether passengers connect in Barrie or Orillia with service providers that will take them to Toronto. But it did note that Hammond Transportation’s application was to provide service for people travelling from Muskoka to Barrie or Orillia, not to Muskokans travelling to other destinations within Muskoka.
The licence, therefore, gives Hammond Transportation authority to take paying passengers from Muskoka to hospitals and colleges in Orillia and Barrie.
But Hammond said ridership during the pilot project had shown a demand for service between Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst.
The company will now apply to amend the permanent licence to remove the restriction.
Regardless, the Corridor 11 Bus will be back on the road.
The bus service will run from Dec. 3 to Dec. 21 before going on hiatus for the holidays. Regular service will resume on Jan. 7.
Hammond said the restrictions within the licence would not affect riders. Between Dec. 3 and 21, the company will waive fares for those travelling between Muskoka communities.
“Where the travel is all in Muskoka, we’re not going to charge a fare,” said Hammond. “It’s sort of a thank you to everybody for supporting our licence application and it’s also a way to get people on the bus.”
He said riders, potential riders, politicians, agencies, church groups and others sent more than 250 letters to the transport board in support of the service. Those letters helped the company get its permanent licence, he said.
Hammond said the company heard from several community members who lamented not having the bus service available over the last month and a half.
“It’s always difficult to change people’s habits and practices. But we found very quickly that there were a number of people that were making changes to their lifestyles – for instance students going to Georgian College taking the bus instead of having to drive and pay for parking,” he said. “It just worked out much better for them to be on the bus. We were hearing from people who had made those changes, but could no longer use the bus.”
Rick Williams, commissioner of community services for the District of Muskoka, emphasized the importance of enhanced transportation options in the region in a media release.
“Muskoka has long been under serviced in terms of transportation and many of our clients struggle to find reliable and affordable transportation for essential services such as medical appointments or educational opportunities,” said Williams.
As of Dec. 3, the Corridor 11 Bus will resume its twice daily run, Monday to Friday, from Huntsville to Barrie and back, making stops in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Washago and Orillia.
Seats on the Corridor 11 Bus can be booked by calling Hammond Transportation at 705-645-2583 or tickets can be purchased directly from the driver. For more information on prices, current scheduling and pick-up and drop-off locations go to www.corridor11bus.ca.