Owen Sound officials are still optimistic the city will be able to launch this January its new daily bus service between the downtown transit depot and Guelph.
Dennis Kefalas, director of public works and engineering, told council Monday the city has begun talks with a prospective operator for the inter-community service.
“The negotiations have been positive to date. As we speak, we’re still pushing for the service to begin Jan. 1, 2020,” he said.
Council approved a staff recommendation Monday that directs the mayor and clerk to sign a transfer payment agreement to allow the Ministry of Transportation to provide the promised $1.24 million in funding to the city for the service.
The agreement requires that the service becomes operational within one year of signing.
Kefalas said city staff expect it will be up and running no later than March 2020.
The former provincial Liberal government approved Owen Sound’s application in April 2018 for $1.24 million over five years from the MTO’s Community Transportation Grant Program to finance the Owen Sound-to-Guelph service.
In January, the new Progressive Conservative government confirmed the city’s funding would still be coming.
The city issued a request for proposals June 21 for a transit operator. Two bids were received, but neither was compliant with the RFP.
Owen Sound has since entered into negotiations with a specific, undisclosed carrier.
The city had initially hoped to launch the service at the start of September. The RFP said the service would begin no later than Jan. 1.
The pilot project will end March 31, 2023, regardless of when it starts. The city can decide to keep running it after that date, but will have to look for other funding sources to do so.
The current plan is for the bus to leave Owen Sound daily at 8 a.m. and arrive in Guelph around 10:15 a.m.
The bus would depart Guelph at 5:30 p.m. and return to Owen Sound by about 7:45 p.m.
City officials say Guelph was chosen because of its proximity to Owen Sound and passengers can access public transportation there to other cities.
Between Owen Sound and Guelph, the bus is to make stops in Chatsworth, Williamsford, Durham, Mount Forest, Arthur, Fergus and Elora.