Grey County’s new transit service running from Owen Sound east to Meaford and The Blue Mountains began Wednesday morning, in large part in hopes of helping with chronic labour shortages there.
Adult fare aboard an orange Grey Transit Route (GTR) Driverseat bus from Owen Sound to Blue Mountain Resort is $5, with a stopover in Meaford for about half an hour.
the trip involves a transfer to another bus at Meaford Hall to continue the journey, bus driver Frank Hurley said, after pulling into the Owen Sound terminal.
No passengers rode the bus on its first day as of the 3:42 p.m. run back to Meaford, he said, though one person asked about the fare and a destination. But it’s just the first day and word about the new service is just getting out to people, he said.
Both routes have two morning runs and two late afternoon/early evening runs and both operate Wednesday through Sunday, to align “with the needs of workers in the hospitality and tourism industry,” a county news release said.
Grey County’s chief administrative officer, Kim Wingrove, said Wednesday the schedules were worked out with the help of the Blue Mountain Village Association, which represents businesses at Blue, and the municipalities of The Blue Mountains and Collingwood. There will likely be some tweaking, she said.
She said the county understands from the village association that “they’ve had a chronic issue in obtaining the labour force that they need,” Wingrove said. The bus service may help attract new workers and transport current employees too, she said.
Fares on the provincially subsidized runs are $5 for adults, less for others. But through Oct. 31 the rides are free. Reservations are required and are made by calling 226-910-1001 or can be booked online at driverseatinc.com/greytransitroute/.
The buses will have electronic fare payment equipment once fares begin Nov. 1.
The bus routes also provide access to some frequently visited locations along the way.
Ten-seat buses will make four trips from the Owen Sound Transit Terminal to Meaford on Route 3, stopping at Woodford Community Centre, the Don Bumstead & Family Medical Centre and at Sykes and Nelson streets (Meaford Hall) in downtown Meaford.
On the way back, they’ll make three stops in Owen Sound before returning to the terminal, at Smart Centres Owen Sound (Walmart area), the hospital and Georgian College.
Route 4 will take passengers from downtown Meaford to Blue Mountains four times a day, with stops at Bill’s Valu-Mart, Thornbury Foodland, The Blue Mountains municipal office, Blue Mountain Community Health Centre and Blue Mountain Village.
On the way back the bus will visit the Blue Mountains municipal office, Thornbury Foodland and Bill’s Valu-Mart before returning to downtown Meaford.
GTR began bus service on Highway 10 between Owen Sound and Orangeville on Sept. 14.
On Sept. 29 the route along Highway 6, between Owen Sound and Wiarton, will begin, running Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Service along Grey Road 4 between Flesherton and Walkerton begins on Oct. 5, running Mondays and Fridays.
Grey County received $1.85 million from the Ontario Community Transportation Program which will fund this bus service until March 2023, Wingrove said. That will be enough time to prove the concept works and make a business case to continue it, she said. Grey has contracted with Driveseat Owen Sound to run the GTR service.
“I really do think that there is a demand out there,” Wingrove said. A survey done more than one year ago received more than 1,000 responses which indcated how important all the routes the county is offering are, she said.
Route schedules and other GTR service information is available at www.grey.ca/gtr.