It isn’t just cars that have a detour through St. Jacobs during the revamping of King Street North – bus riders have had an extra 15 minutes added to their trips on Grand River Transit’s Route 21.
For the past few months, GRT riders leaving, or returning, to Elmira on the only route that passes through Woolwich Township have had to plan ahead for delays due to detours on King Street. With construction moving along, however, there is some hope for a return to regular service.
Peter Zinck, assistant director of transit services with GRT, says there are a few changes coming to Route 21 this week that should make life a little bit easier for the 80 or so riders leaving and arriving in St. Jacobs every day and the 75 riders that leave Elmira on the bus route to Conestoga Mall.
“The route was already on detour due to the King Street North construction and we were taking a fairly long route on Three Bridges Road and that resulted in quite a long trip, and a disruption to our schedules,” he said. “So, when we found that the construction allowed us to detour along into the community a little more, it is shorter and gets us closer to our operating schedule.”
Route 21 starts at Conestoga Mall in Waterloo, runs up King Street to Weber St., then to King Street North in St. Jacobs before heading down Sawmill Road to Hwy. 85. Once in Elmira, the bus goes north on Arthur St, left on Church Street and loops down Snyder Avenue and First Street back to Arthur. Without construction impeding the route, it would normally take just under an hour for the round trip. With the detour in St. Jacobs, the trip time went up by more than 30 minutes.
Zinck says the new route – which continues along King Street North in St. Jacobs before detouring through Abners Lane, down Water Street, then Printery Road back to King Street North – will allow drivers on Route 21 to stick closer to GRT’s original one-hour roundtrip schedule.
“Even when we added extra time in due to the detour, we were still exceeding that as well, so some trips were taking up to 30 minutes longer,” he said. “We needed to do something. Our operators have been doing a fabulous job of trying to maintain schedules where possible, but they can only go a certain distance in a certain amount of time. This allows us to get into St. Jacobs and a little closer to our schedules.”
Customer complaints and concerns prompted the change when construction moved farther south on King Street North.
“Mostly it was missed connections that we would hear about most frequently on that route. Especially trying to get back to Woolwich. It is the same bus that runs up to Elmira and returns back, so once you are late through the detour route, it is very difficult to catch up on the way back, especially when you have to do another lengthy detour,” he said. “We looked at various options like detouring around St. Jacobs but our ridership in St. Jacobs is quite solid, so we didn’t want to disrupt it by having people not being able to get into St. Jacobs itself. Going on the new detour route provides reasonable access to the community and a shorter detour.”
The route will return back to normal after construction is wrapped up for the season in St. Jacobs, he says.
“I would like to thank customers for their patience, and thank them for their continued patronage. We’re doing our best to manage the situation with a schedule and the buses that we have on that service,” he said, adding that an end is in sight. “We’re looking forward to the end of the road work. We understand that the work will be finished in six or so weeks. I am not the project manager but that is our understanding. I think it is going to be a few more weeks and thanks for your patronage and patience.”
The new detour went into full effect this week on Sept. 21.
To view schedules and stop changes on Route 21 through Woolwich, visit the GRT website at www.grt.ca.