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Perth County Connect confirms Nov. 16 launch for local bus routes

Intercity transit will connect Listowel directly with K-W

PERTH COUNTY – After being pushed back due to pandemic-related delays, a launch date for the Perth County transportation system has been confirmed. Although work is still being done to make it happen, it has been confirmed Perth County Connect buses will be on the road Nov. 16.

The service provider, Voyago, has been operating other transportation systems through the pandemic by enforcing a series of safety and sanitizing precautions recommended by the Ministry of Health.

“Barrier shields have been installed on all their buses to create a protection zone between the drivers and the passengers,” said Transit Project Co-ordinator, Maggie Martin. “All their drivers have received PPE training and they are expected to wear a mask and gloves while operating and transporting all passengers.”

The buses will undergo thorough cleanings and (will) be disinfected with special attention given to frequently-touched surfaces such as the front and back of seats, handles, access doors, grab bars and fare boxes.

“The situation is constantly changing, however at this time we are recommending to proceed with reduced capacity on the bus which will allow for safe physical distancing and masks will also be mandatory for all passengers,” she said.

Full capacity on the buses for the intra-county routes is 12 passengers, however, due to the pandemic, the buses will launch at 50 per cent capacity.

“Every other seat on the bus has been blocked off just to ensure social distancing, but as I said, times are changing constantly but at this time that is what we’ll be recommending,” said Martin.

Perth County Connect will run two routes. Route A will service the north end of the county with stops in Stratford, Gadshill, Brunner, Milverton, Newton, Millbank, Listowel, Atwood, Monkon and Mitchell. Route B will have stops throughout the southern end of the county in Stratford, St. Pauls, St. Marys, Kirkton, Mitchell and Sebringville.

“We’re hoping the bus system will be of value to many residents so we’re very excited to get it on the road as soon as possible,” she said. “We also hope it will have a direct impact on our economic recovery so we can get people back into our local businesses and get people back to work.”

Martin said the transportation system is a recognition everyone needs access to reliable affordable transportation and she hopes it will eliminate transit barriers for the people in the county who need it.

Perth County Connect is also partnering with the City of Stratford to launch an intercity service as well which will offer three routes from Perth County to Kitchener-Waterloo and London. These routes will run out of St. Marys, Stratford and Listowel.

Although it is still being confirmed, Martin said she believes the intercity route out of Listowel will bring passengers to Elmira, Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and a Go Transit station.

“We’re still working on confirming these details with Stratford and confirming our routes with our service provider but we are going to be connecting with places like London and Kitchener-Waterloo and beyond, to Toronto as well,” she said.

During the Perth County council meeting on Sept. 3, some councillors raised concerns about what may happen with the planned routes if local partnership agreements with St. Marys and Stratford are not signed by the launch date.

“There have been some delays finalizing these agreements but we do have a really strong working relationship with our partners,” said Martin. “They have recently renewed their commitment to the project and the intent of launching as soon as possible. The value of Perth County Connect for all the communities including St. Marys and Stratford is evident so we are confident the agreements will be finalized shortly.”

Martin reminds riders who are planning on paying while boarding the buses to bring exact change because drivers will not be giving change to minimize the handling of cash.

There will be other options to pay fares.

“We are hoping to secure an app through our service provider for online booking and alternative methods of payment,” she said.  “We are also hoping to secure a few ticket vendors throughout the county to make it easy and convenient for riders to purchase tickets.”

The fares for Perth County Connect will be $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students. Children under five years old, veterans and support people can all ride for free. Monthly passes and 10 credit discount packs will be available to allow frequent riders to get discounts on their fares.

“The stops have not yet been finalized and secured,” said Martin. “We have identified the most convenient and popular locations for each community we’d like our service to stop at such as community centres, libraries and grocery stores but we are still working on getting all those pieces in place with the private property owners to get the stops confirmed.”

Buses cannot be ordered until the contract with Voyago is finalized.

“That is where the delay has been, however we are working very closely with Voyago to secure those buses and ensure we’re ready to launch,” she said. “Whether we have the buses ready for November or some interim buses available we’re striving for the November launch date and we’re prepared to be creative to ensure Perth County Connect hits the road in one form or another.”

Martin said the hiring of drivers is all handled through Voyago and they are confident they will have their side of the service ready to roll in November.

“However, as you know, the pandemic uncertainty continues and further delays may arise at any time so those are hurdles we’ll have to face if they come but we are working very closely with Voyago to see we can get Perth County Connect on the road as soon as possible,” said Martin.

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.