Ontario Transit Travels

A transit tour of Southwestern Ontario

Huron Shores Transit bus stop in Grand Bend

In January 2023, while visiting the site of the now-demolished Sarnia Eaton Centre, I took advantage of two new rural transit services serving Southwestern Ontario: Strathroy-Caradoc Transit and Huron Shores Area Transit. While both services connect London and Sarnia, they operate as separate services with different fares; they also have different terminals.

Strathroy-Caradoc Inter-Community Transit bus at Lambton Mall in Sarnia

Strathroy-Caradoc Transit offers the most direct service between London and Sarnia, with stops at London International Airport, Downtown London (on York Street near the VIA Station), Komoka, Mount Brydges, Strathroy, Lambton Mall, and Downtown Sarnia.

The regular cash fare between London and Sarnia is $20, though from London or Sarnia to Strathroy, the fare is $10. On my westbound trip on Sunday, January 29, the schedule allowed for a quick washroom and coffee break in Downtown Strathroy, a necessity given the long ride on a small minibus.

Returning the next day from Sarnia, I opted to ride Huron Shores Area Transit (HSAT) back to London. HSAT, which is also contracted to Voyago, connects several communities in Lambton, Huron, and Middlesex Counties. All four HSAT routes converge in the summer resort town of Grand Bend. Two routes operate seven days a week (Route 1, connecting Sarnia, Forest, Thedford, and Kettle Point & Stoney Point First Nation, and Route 2, serving Exeter, Lucan, Centralia, and London). There are two additional routes operating two days a week from Grand Bend to Goderich and to Parkhill and Strathroy.

Unlike Strathroy-Caradoc, HSAT operates on a flat $5 cash fare. Even though I was traveling the long way between Sarnia and London, with an hour-long layover in Grand Bend, I was offered a slip of paper marked by the driver that allowed me to board the second bus without a second fare. Huron Shores buses have bike racks, though the operator recommends calling ahead to ensure their availability.

While Strathroy-Caradoc Transit serves downtown London and Sarnia, HSAT’s buses go only as far as the first major destination in both cities. The Sarnia stops for Route 1 are at Lambton College and nearby Lambton Mall, while the London stops on Route 2 are on London’s north end, near Masonville Place and at the University Hospital on the Western University campus. Getting downtown requires a transfer to Sarnia or London Transit.

Huron Shores Area Transit bus at London’s University Hospital. Note the bike rack.

Though VIA Rail still operates one daily train between Toronto, London, and Sarnia, it is not on a convenient schedule for most passengers (it leaves Sarnia early in the morning and arrives late in the evening), so the new bus services fill a key role in providing mobility options. Though it is more expensive, the Strathroy-Caradoc route is the direct and the fastest connection. But Huron Shores trip is the more scenic and cheaper ride.

I updated my Ontario intercity transportation map for April 2023 to include the major GO Transit service changes, the gradual resumption of some Ottawa commuter bus routes, the start of Travelways bus service between Detroit, London, and Toronto, and minor route and service changes elsewhere in the province.

The hour-long layover in Grand Bend gave me a chance to wander the town. On the main street, almost every business was closed for the season. There was very little traffic on Main Street, so it had a bit of a ghost town feel. On Highway 21 and to the east, however, typical chain stores like Tim Hortons, Sobey’s, and Shoppers Drug Mart serve the year-round population.

Grand Bend’s famous beach — in January
Hello Sunshine

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