Sarnia, we already provide inter-city busing, says Robert Q

Sarnia has applied for a provincial grant to improve inter-city bus transportation. Journal file photo

Cathy Dobson

Sarnia has applied for a provincial grant to improve bus service between Sarnia and London, and Robert Q is hoping for a piece of the pie, a company spokesman says

Robert Q has provided inter-city transportation to Sarnians for more than 35 years, and for much of that time has been the only service available, said Brad Rice, executive vice-president of Robert Q’s Airbus.

“You want to remember what you have.”

Last month, Sarnia backed an application from Strathroy-Caradoc for a five-year, $1.5- million Community Transportation Grant to improve inter-city transportation in the Sarnia-Strathroy-London corridor.

Rice said he hopes Sarnia, if it does get the subsidy, will consider using it to expand Robert Q’s service, and not necessarily work with Greyhound Canada, the bus company that brought the grant to the city’s attention in the first place.

He said Robert Q is currently turning a profit on its four-times daily trips to London, and was already considering a new stop in Strathroy.

“But we’ve had some tough times too and, frankly, we’ve continued to invest on our dime.”

The Sarnia-London route is the “leanest” Robert Q operates and its 13-passenger vehicles often leave town less than half full, he said.

“The efforts we’ve made with VIA (to co-ordinate schedules) speaks to the commitment we have to make the service better for everybody,” Rice said.

“I’m all for competition, but we are of the opinion that we all have to be treated fairly and considered equally.”

Other bus services to Sarnia have come and gone over the years, suggesting two operators won’t survive, he added.

“I think that speaks for itself.”

Ontario’s Community Transportation Grant is geared toward rural and small markets with little or no service.

In making its overture to Sarnia, Greyhound estimated the route would need to be subsidized about 70%, and it would likely be cancelled after five years if the subsidy weren’t renewed.

Without a subsidy, Robert Q offers a one-way adult ticket to London for $42.40. A round trip is $84.80, with discounts for seniors and students.

With a subsidy, the company wouldn’t necessarily lower its ticket prices, Rice said.

“I’d much rather augment our service.”