For the first time since before we moved out here, the Pontiac’s weekday bus service is seeing some major changes. Based on what I can figure out from what’s been announced, for most people they should be improvements.
What we’ve had until now is a standalone commuter bus service that started on Isle-aux-Allumettes and ran the length of Route 148 before terminating at Ottawa’s downtown bus station. It was run by Transport Thom for many years before being taken over by Transcollines, the rural bus service of the MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais, a few years back. Transcollines didn’t change anything about the service—same route, same schedule, same price—and kept it essentially separate from the rest of the network, but did promise that the route would be upgraded and integrated at some point in the future.
It’s years later than originally promised, but those changes have now been announced. New as of next week is Transcollines’s Route 910, which from what I can gather has a number of notable changes over the old service.
First of all, its route has changed. Its starting point on Isle-aux-Allumettes has moved from the Dubeau Grocery near the Ontario-Quebec border1 to Chapeau village proper. In Shawville it diverts from Route 148 to swing by the hospital in Shawville—which theoretically means that it stops a couple of blocks from my house. And it takes a very different path once it reaches Gatineau. It no longer crosses the bridge to downtown Ottawa to stop at the Ottawa bus station;2 instead, it passes by D’Arcy McGee High School, Collège Nouvelles-Frontières, the Hull Hospital and Heritage College before terminating at the Gabrielle-Roy campus of the CEGEP de l’Outaouais.
This is a very different route, no longer aimed just at commuters to downtown work locations. A student could conceivably take this bus to classes in Gatineau without having to move into the city.3 And two hospitals are now accessible from our region by public transit: that will have implications for workers, patients and patients’ families.
The schedule has changed slightly, too. It’s always been an early bus; now it’s a little later. In the morning it reaches Shawville about 15 minutes later than before, and in the evening it’s about half an hour later. In the city it reaches the Allumettières park-and-ride at around seven in the morning and five in the afternoon: that’s just enough time for someone to transfer to and from an STO bus and work from eight to four at Tunney’s Pasture or even downtown. Other opportunities exist to transfer to the STO along the 910’s route from Allumettières station to Gabrielle-Roy campus, which might get commuters downtown quicker. I don’t think losing direct downtown service is much of a loss; for some people this new schedule, and the new connection points, might actually make it easier to get to work.
Finally, the fare structure has changed. Formerly a tiered structure with fares that ranged from $10 to $30 one-way, and $235 to $595 for a monthly pass, the service will now have a flat fee: $20 for a one-way trip, and $240 for a monthly pass ($170 for students, $120 for seniors). Not only is that cheaper on a monthly basis for everyone this side of Luskville, but the fare also includes access to both the STO and OC Transpo bus networks.
This is a service that people might actually use.
There are still a couple of details I’m not clear on, like fares for trips between villages like Fort-Coulonge and Shawville. And the schedule seems to be indicating time points rather than stops: where exactly should I wait for the bus in Shawville, for example? But these are questions Transcollines should be able to answer.
Route 910 launches on 4 January 2021 and will be free to use for the month of January. But, you know, we’re still in a pandemic, even if there are currently fewer than five active COVID-19 cases along the bus’s route. Only take the bus if you actually have to, and wear the required mask.
Previously: Bus Service in the Pontiac.
- Which I believe was an attempt to attract riders from Pembroke.
- Which even Greyhound doesn’t use any more.
- CEGEP students start at 17. That can be awfully young to be moving out on your own.