Transit Windsor is running at full speed for the first time in months following staffing challenges fuelled by the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the company announced that it would return to full service after nearly a year of being scaled back.
From March to May 2020, Transit Windsor completely suspended its operations. The service then ran on a reduced schedule until September 2021, which is when it resumed to full service.
Months later, in November, it reduced operations again to an enhanced Saturday schedule. That change lasted until early this week.
Tyson Cragg, executive director of Transit Windsor, told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning Tuesday that now was the right time to fully resume service as students make a return to classes, pandemic rules continue to ease in the community and the service was able to hire more drivers.
LISTEN: Transit Windsor describes new route, increased service
"We would have loved to have been back to full service sooner than this, but like a lot of other industries, transit is not alone in having challenges finding staffing. So that's really been our biggest concern," he said, adding that they also needed to match their service levels with the demand they were experiencing.
Before Labour Day, Cragg said ridership reached about 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. He anticipated that as route frequency increases, more people will engage with the service.
New pilot route to Amherstburg launches
The transit company also launched a two-year pilot project that includes a bus running from the Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare terminal to Dalhousie Street and Sandwich Street in Amherstburg, with stops in the town. Riders can also make connections in LaSalle.
The route runs at 6 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m every day of the week and costs $4.75 each way. According to Cragg, it will take about 40 minutes to get from Windsor to Amherstburg.
"People need public transportation out our way and the demand has definitely been high," said Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.
ArriveCAN a challenge for the tunnel bus
Transit Windsor said this new route better connects Windsor to the county and vice versa. Cragg said other municipalities in the county have reached out to see if Transit Windsor can bring service there.
"My goal ultimately ... is to improve those regional opportunities and the more, the better as far as I'm concerned," he said.
As for demand, Cragg said pilot projects are experimental, so they'll have to wait and see what ridership for the route looks like.
The Tunnel Bus, which would cross the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, remains suspended. Cragg said they are looking at service delivery options for the route, in particular having it be used for special events.
He said with the ArriveCAN app requirement still in place at the border, it's an extra challenge for drivers.