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Does the new Ontario Northland bus stop in Huntsville meet expectations?

'We are looking to have a transportation hub where the returning Northland Train, Ontario Northland Bus and the soon-to-be-expanded Town Bus Service are all linked together'
Huntsville residents and visitors don't have access to shelter while waiting for the Ontario Northland Bus. The town says it is working on adding one soon.

The Ontario Northland bus stop has constantly changed locations in Huntsville and, in many cases, has fallen short of satisfying the users’ needs.

See: Northlander bus stop not located in an 'ideal location'

Could the new location be the exception?

The bus stop has been located in places like the now-destroyed Empire Hotel or 304 Ravenscliffe Road next to the OPP station. A couple of weeks ago, the bus stop changed location again and moved next to the train station at 60 Station Rd.

Michelle McAdams is a Huntsville resident and has used the Ontario Northland bus regularly — At least once a month for over a year.

When asked if the new stop alleviated her worries from the last one, she replied with a, “no.”

“What people want is some protection. Some seating and garbage are not a lot. It should have a place (shelter) that anyone with mobility issues can access and somewhere safe,” she said. ”These last two locations seem to be missing the basics.”

McAdams added that although her concerns remained the same, she felt safer at the Ravenscliff location since it was next to the OPP station, especially when she needed to get the 3:30 a.m. bus.

”The stops in Bracebridge and Gravenhurst make much more sense at the hotels. Other buses, like the Deerhurst bus and Northern shuttle, stop at the hotels, which works fine," she said.

"I'm not sure why they can't find a place and get this bare minimum done."

According to Ontario Northland, the location was chosen because it meets the standards.

”Ontario Northland requires that stop locations meet specific criteria, including lighting and accessibility requirements. The new site meets our existing criteria for a secure bus stop,” Ontario Northland communication specialist Kate Bondett wrote in an email.

Aside from meeting the standards, this bus stop location may play an essential role in the upcoming mobility projects coming to town in the next few years.

”We are looking to have a transportation hub where the returning Northland Train, Ontario Northland Bus and the soon-to-be-expanded Town Bus Service are all linked together,” said Huntsville councillor Bob Stone.

Although Bondett wrote the location will remain a permanent stop, Stone said the Town of Huntsville and Ontario Northland are contemplating adding a shelter at the station, which could mean changes.

”Because the current stop is located on a district road, we needed a licence of occupation with the district to place benches and a garbage can,” he said. ”We are working with Ontario Northland to have a shelter at this location or perhaps find another location with a shelter that suits their drive time from the highway and ability to turn the bus around.”

However, he added that he doesn’t ”believe the bus stop will move in the immediate future.”

”I hope the transit hub is located at the train station with appropriate shelter and services,” said Stone. ”There are current discussions with private property owners and various service providers to determine if that location works for everyone.”

In the meantime, the bus service will be operating as usual. 

Julian Orlando Chaves is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with the Huntsville Forester. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.