Huron Shores Area Transit
The Huron Shores Area Transit (HSAT) began as a seed planted in 2017 and grew over the next 6 or 7 years into a pilot project that provides affordable public transportation to the communities of Lambton Shores, Kettle & Stony Point FN, South Huron, Bluewater, and North Middlesex.
For many years, a lack of affordable public transportation had been identified as a deterrent to economic growth in Huron County by various economic development committees in the area. In 2018 a steering committee was formed by local business owners, community organizations and social agencies as an advocacy group and grew into the Transit Steering Committee.
The group received funding in 2019 to conduct a feasibility study, and with help from the Municipality of Lambton Shores, were successful at obtaining a provincial grant and were able to contract consultants to develop a service plan in 2020, and to hire a transit co-ordinator to begin the implementation.
Launching a public transit system in 2020 and 2021 proved difficult, as the area was still suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While ridership was less than anticipated, the group was able to prove the need for the service.
In 2022, HSAT experienced exponential growth with a 500 per cent increase in trips taken compared to the previous year. With this new demand, the organization began to fine tune routes as they learned where the need was greatest, including extending the Bluewater route to Goderich in the north.
Thanks to funding from the Province of Ontario for rural transportation through the Ontario Community Transportation Grant Program, HSAT is able to provide two buses running four routes that connect the partner communities. The riders range from students and young people who are using the system to get to work, to seniors who are enjoying freedom to travel to neighbouring communities for shopping and appointments. Local tourism is experiencing a boost thanks to the bus service. In fact, extra buses were required in the summer with the demand for service between London and the beach at Grand Bend.
According to Susan Mills, HSAT Co-ordinator, young families are thankful for the opportunity to get out of the city and enjoy the lakeside community.
While the system is still in the pilot project phase until 2025, Mills is optimistic that it will become a permanent service. With environmental issues at the forefront, this is exactly the type of project that the gas and carbon taxes should be supporting. Partnerships at all levels of government can make this sustainable, Mills says. She is currently working on plans to sell advertising on the fleet of buses to bring in additional revenue.
At just $5 per local trip and $10 for the extended routes, the service is affordable and comfortable on the 20-passenger buses that are also wheelchair accessible.
For schedules and maps, visit their website at www.huronshoresareatransit.ca.