Liability concerns, uncertain ridership sink Petrolia to Sarnia bus

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There won’t be a bus service from Petrolia to Sarnia after all.

The town was investigating setting up bus to Sarnia for Petrolia and other central Lambton communities, mostly for classes at Lambton College. The service would also have been available others in the community without transportation who had appointments in Sarnia.

Mayor John McCharles says the town considered putting as much as $13,000 up for seed money to start the service. Town officials had spoken with their counterparts in Plympton-Wyoming who were also willing to give seed money for the venture.

“The costs don’t see to be quite extreme,” he says. “It would be about $200 per day which is about $5 per person if we had 40 people.”

But McCharles told council Monday there was no guarantee there would be 40 riders. “That’s possible, but it is very difficult to really plan on that because we have not had that number of people come forward,” he says.

Several members of council voiced concerns about ridership. “We have people who are willing to use it but it is time restrictive,” says Councilor Tim Brown noting the bus would have to leave Petrolia and Sarnia at a set time, such as 7 am and 5 pm. “A college student who is done at noon, they’re not going to want to use it.”

Councilor Joel Field says several people have said their children might use the service but he hasn’t heard from anyone would leave Petrolia at 7 am and come back at 5 pm for a medical appointment.

And while ridership is a worry, McCharles says liability is a greater concern. “For the municipality to put forward seed money would be a bit of a danger. We would be liable for anything that would happen regarding the bus service,” says the mayor. “It may not be the town’s fault…but certainly, if someone was injured, the first plan of attack would be the municipality.”

And while the town will step away from the idea, McCharles says another group, perhaps a service club, might consider taking on a project to provide bus services to Sarnia for college age students.

“It is a bit disappointing because there are a number of people who would use it,” says McCharles. “But I don’t see it as a viable operation as far as the municipality is concerned.”

– Heather Wright