By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Changes may be coming down the road to a popular south Oshawa bus route.
Proposed changes from Durham Regional Transit (DRT) would see the most westerly destination on Route 403 moved from the Oshawa GO Station to the Whitby Go Station. The proposed change has riders shaking their heads as it would see the 403 busses bypassing the Oshawa station altogether. Currently, the 403 route heads south from the Oshawa Centre terminal toward Lake Ontario before heading west through southern Oshawa and into Whitby. Once there, it circles back to the Oshawa GO station. However, the proposed change would have the bus continue west through Whitby and stop at the Whitby GO station instead of circling back to Oshawa.
Oshawa Councillor Amy McQuaid-England, a south Oshawa resident and occasional user of the 403 route, says based on the feedback she has heard, riders are voicing an “overwhelming ‘no’ to changing that bus route.”
Over the past month, DRT sought out public comment through a survey on the possible modifications to the route.
McQuaid-England says changing the route is part of the “bigger issue” with an increasing number of people moving to the city’s south end, but having fewer transportation options.
“It’s going to mean increased travel times and no way to get to the [Oshawa] GO Train,” she stated.
Christopher Norris, manager of customer service planning for Durham Transit, says the survey wrapped up this past week and it is too early to gauge public opinion as of yet.
“We don’t have any preliminary conclusions [based on the survey], but it [the feedback] will be varied,” Norris said.
Norris acknowledges riders who currently use the 403 bus to get to the Oshawa GO would require to a transfer to do so if the proposed changes move forward.
Morris says the changes stem from previous customer feedback and Durham Transit’s planning department vision to offer “enhanced mobility throughout the region and through connections in our communities.”
Norris says Durham Transit staff has surveyed riders on how they would like to see the route shaped in the future.
“I want to emphasize that we are trying to get feedback from the customer base and have them play a more prominent role in the analysis process.”
McQuaid-England argues the changes would result in longer commutes for south Oshawa residents who use GO service to travel to Toronto or other parts of the GTA.
One such resident is Sheila Jones, a frequent user of the 403 route for purposes such as everyday errands and getting to the GO Station for trips to Toronto.
Jones says she was “very mad” when she saw signs advertising the proposed changes.
“I wasn’t happy because it is the only bus that services the south end from the Oshawa GO Station and that bus is how I get there with all my kids,” Jones says. “So I was livid that it wasn’t going to go anywhere near there. Even the stores along the strip [where it turns on Victoria Street in Whitby], I mean I could walk there from the light [at Victoria and Thickson], but there is no sidewalk.”
Jones is particularly unhappy the route may be changed to Whitby because she will be unable to walk home. Currently, she says it is about a 30-minute walk from the Oshawa station to her house, which she said is manageable in certain situations, but not when her children are with her.
Also critical of the public survey, Jones stated she had difficulties filling it online, to the point of frustration.
She also claims she was specifically told that no changes would be made to the 403 route by Durham Transit staff at a public information session in February.
In her opinion, it is “just another effort to, as I put it, stick it to us in the south end.”
“It seems like everything they change with the bus routes helps the north end while taking away from the south end,” she says.
While riding on the bus, Jones described her fellow riders as “being shocked” when they heard her speaking about the changes with her son.
However, Norris says information about the proposed changes and the survey were posted at each stop along the route, as well as on Durham Transit’s website.
He acknowledged there were cases where the information sheets were torn down or damaged, but says there is only so much the transit department can do to thwart such acts.
McQuaid-England says the region has plans to apply for provincial funding to expand transit in Oshawa’s south end, but in her opinion, the proposed changes to Route 403 are counterproductive to that goal.
“Now is not the time,” she says. “The south end is a high priority neighbourhood and people need to be able to access transit.”
Norris stressed that no final decision has been made, as the proposed changes require further analysis, and must be presented to the region’s transit commission and regional council.