Low ridership causing the District to reconsider some of its Muskoka Extended Transit routes

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The cliche, use it or lose it, has never rung truer.

The District Municipality of Muskoka is in the process of reevaluating its rural transportation routes due to low ridership, particularly on two of its Huntsville routes.

So far the two routes in Huntsville, one from Dwight coming across [Hwy.] 60 and the other from Baysville coming up [Hwy.] 117, have not been all that successful so we’re probably going to have to go back to the drawing board and see if it’s the route or if it’s the day. We did a fair amount of consultation beforehand with service providers and the user community, but we still haven’t really found the right match for Huntsville yet. District Commissioner of Community Services Rick Williams.

The District embarked on a pilot project in 2015, with a grant from the Ministry of Transportation, aimed at providing transportation opportunities for residents living in remote and rural communities by using school buses. The idea was that when school buses are not being used to transport students, they could be deployed to and from rural communities to urban centres, enabling rural residents to attend medical appointments, shop or simply get out of the house. But some of those routes seem to be more popular than others; consequently the District is in the process of reevaluating those routes.

“Basically the break-even position on these is sort of ten users a day and we’ve been giving them about a year and a half to build up a ridership and the numbers in both Dwight/Dorset and Baysville are well below the ten users a day,” he said. “So we’re basically going to give it another try,” said Williams, noting that marketing the routes better and tying them in with various community events or changing the days when the buses run might net better results.

He said two of the routes – Honey Harbour to Midland and MacTier to Bracebridge – are the most popular routes thus far. In terms of the other existing routes, some may be tweaked or cancelled altogether, or the route days may change. That is still to be determined, said Williams who noted that District staff will work on redesigning the routes this fall. The fares are as follows: round trips cost $5 for adults and $2 for teens. Children pay $1. The bus does not run on weekends, holidays or school summer holidays.

You can submit suggestions by emailing [email protected] or by calling 1-844-440-6387.  You can also visit this link for more information on routes and schedules.

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1 Comment

  1. Maxime Rivière-Anderson on

    I wrote an email to the MET and thought it might be a good idea to share my suggestions with the Doppler to add to the public discussion.

    To whom it may concern,

    It is unfortunate to hear of the low ridership of the MET service in Huntsville. I applaud the recognized importance of rural public transit, and I hope these following pondered suggestions help to make the service great for our community.

    1. Design the routes like the spokes of a bicycle wheel from the core (Huntsville) to the periphery then back.

    2. Focus on the corridors that have the highest density of locals, and include routes from Huntsville to Newholm to Baysville on the increasingly populated Brunel Rd. and its concessions; Huntsville to Hillside to Dwight/Dorset on Hwy 60/Hwy 35; and perhaps even consider a resort route during the busy season from Huntsville to Grandview (O’Meara Clubhouse), to Deerhurst (Pavilion), and to Hidden Valley (Hotel).

    3. Advertise the service! The website is insufficient and should not be the only source for getting the word out to the public. Many rural people can’t afford or are out of range of reliable internet services, and many tourists haven’t a clue that the service is even available, so would never visit the site in the first place. Solutions could include advertising with eye-catching posters at various town and village post offices, the Huntsville theatre, government services buildings, box office kiosques, the chamber of commerce (which, by the way, should remain in the downtown core for several reasons), the shopping mall, local bars and restaurants (bathrooms and at the cash), the coach bus stop, hotel/motel/resort front desks, etc. Other options could include ‘gifted to the community’ local radio, TV and newspaper ads. Use catchy tag lines such as ‘Leave the car at home, and let yourself be driven!’ Find a fun and catchy signature Muskoka look for visuals in advertising campaigns, and perhaps even consider magnetic MET signs for the buses themselves that can be placed on and removed from their side panels in seconds.

    4. Have designated bus stops at major sites: town and village centres, concession/main road intersections, etc. Perhaps there could even be a simple bus stop sign at each designated stop with the bus schedule listed on it. If the service really takes off and the number of patrons can justify it, place simple bus shelters at major stops for awaiting passenger comfort during bad weather and also as a way to advertise the service for passersby with a very visible structure – a project for Huntsville High School kids to undertake? Also consider allowing the pickup and drop off of people on the long stretches between designated stops. This would be especially helpful for elderly people who may have trouble walking all the way to a designated stop and might therefore not find the service useful given their mobility hindrances. Perhaps people could waive at the bus along the route for pickup, and the bus could deploy its stop sign in a similar fashion to school children pickup/drop off that is already recognized by other road users.

    Thank you for your consideration of these suggestions. I am confident that an affordable, well planned, sufficiently advertised, and community-engaged public transit service can be – not only viable – but deeply valued and appreciated by our citizens.

    Warmly,

    Maxime Rivière-Anderson

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