Open Letter re cancellation of Kemptville-Ottawa commuter service
Hello Mayor Peckford and Council Members,
I am writing to express my concern over the recent announcement from ATS Kemptville that commuter services between Kemptville and Ottawa, which run Monday to Friday, will be suspended indefinitely as of January 2024 due to a lack of funding/revenue.
This service is an essential connection between North Grenville and Ottawa for a number of residents who work or go to school in Ottawa. It is also the only mechanism by which the Municipality is currently meeting its strategic transit goals (North Grenville Transit Study — Goal #2: Connecting to Ottawa), though the service is privately run.
Commuter services were suspended during the pandemic, and resumed only in September of 2022. During this time, residents made other travel arrangements and changed their in-office work hours. Ridership was therefore much lower in 2022/2023 than it was pre-pandemic. However, I have personally noticed an increase in the past year in ridership, as word has spread that this reliable and affordable service is once more available. I believe that ridership would continue to grow over the next few years, especially with the recent announcement of on-demand transit services within the Municipality.
I note that the North Grenville Transit Study recognized the connection between the Municipality and Ottawa as a major part of increasing mobility for residents. However, its reliance on completion of the southern extension of the LRT to connect residents to OC Transpo services will leave a significant gap in service delivery over the coming years. If the current LRT service is any indication, the southern extension may well be unreliable and expensive even when it does (eventually, presumably) become available.
In addition to providing an essential daily connection between North Grenville and Ottawa, the ATS commuter bus provides an environmental service in reducing the number of vehicles on the road each day. It also provides a social service to the community as a point of connection for riders and drivers alike.
ATS Kemptville reports a loss of approximately $7,000 per month in providing its commuter services, given the post-pandemic ridership decline. While I recognize that the timing (out in the morning at 6:00 am, returning from Ottawa at 4:15 pm) and accessibility of the commuter bus will not meet the needs of all folks in North Grenville, the fact that it provides the only service of this kind for the Municipality, I think warrants serious consideration for subsidization — at least to bridge the gap until the southern extension of the LRT has been completed and alternative options can be brought to the table.
I urge the Municipality of North Grenville to add subsidization for commuter bus services to the municipal budget as a means of meeting its stated strategic transit goals.
Oxford Mills, Ontario