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After Amherstburg-Windsor bus route exceeds ridership expectations, town says three trips a day aren't enough

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Surprised by the success of a transit route connecting Amherstburg and Windsor, town officials are seeking approval for a five-year extension and an additional daily trip to meet high demand from riders.

Transit service to Amherstburg, known as Route 605, began in September 2022 as a two-year pilot program and runs three times a day between the town and the Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare terminal in Windsor.

"It includes connections to several Transit Windsor routes to get passengers to and from various locations across the City of Windsor, including St. Clair College and the University of Windsor," reads a portion of a report heading to Windsor's transportation standing committee on Jun. 26.

"It also includes connections to the Town of LaSalle’s route (Route 25), also operated by Transit Windsor."

According to Amherstburg's director of infrastructure services, Transit Windsor had informed the town it could take up to two years for a new service like this to see desired ridership numbers.

"Instead, we saw great numbers right from the start," said Antonietta Giofu.

Transit Windsor data shows the monthly average of ridership for Route 605 increased from 655 in the last four months of 2022 to 1,133 for the entirety of 2023.

For the first four months of 2024, the monthly rider average sits at 1,275.

That's an uptick of 95 per cent between 2022 and 2024.

A majority of riders using Route 605 are post-secondary students — University of Windsor students representing 36 per cent and St. Clair College students accounting for 22 per cent.

"Our two-year pilot expires at the end of August 2024 so we're going to council next week to ask for approval to extend that agreement with Transit Windsor for an additional five years. That will take us to 2029," said Giofu.

Based on feedback received by riders, the Town of Amherstburg wants to add a fourth route to the 605 service.

"Right now, we're looking at adding that to the end of the day. A lot of the feedback that we received, especially from students, is that they need to be able to come back," she said.

"A lot of them have late evenings at those facilities, so they would like to have the opportunity to take transit but also to be able to get back into town. Right now, our final route is in the 6 p.m. hour so we would like to add another trip after that."

When asked if the usage of Route 605 is a sign that investing in transit can pay off in the long run, Giofu said "this is definitely an example of that."Shaquid Ansari, left, and Harshil Dhingra are shown in Amherstburg, Ont. after hopping off the Route 605 bus to look for jobs on Jun. 18, 2024. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)

Route 605’s southbound bus departs from the HDGH terminal on weekdays at 6 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

University of Windsor students Shaquid Ansari and Harshil Dhingra boarded the 1:30 p.m. bus to visit Amherstburg for the first time Tuesday.

After landing here in April and struggling to find a job for the past two months in Windsor, Ansari and Dhingra spent the day going door-to-door in Amherstburg to search for jobs.

"I know some people who work in Amherstburg. They come by ride or by bus," said Dhingra.

Both students said they support Route 605 adding a fourth trip every day.

"We were looking to come [to Amherstburg] around 10:30 but we came at 1:30 because there were no buses. So I think there should be more buses on this route," said Dhingra.

According to Ansari, the addition of a fourth daily trip may result in more students learning about employment opportunities they may not have known about otherwise.

"Because of less buses, the students in Windsor don't know about this place and don't know about the jobs over here. So if there are more buses, then people will get to know about them more."

Windsor's Environment, Transportation & Public Safety Standing Committee will meet on Jun. 26. 

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