THUNDER BAY -- Barely over a month since the province unveiled a plan to help improve bus transportation in underserved areas of northern Ontario, Kasper Transportation of Thunder Bay has announced it will launch a new route in the northwest next week.
Kasper plans to inaugurate service linking Thunder Bay, Atikokan, Fort Frances and Kenora on Jan. 18.
A Thunder Bay-Fort Frances bus connection was discontinued last year after it became uneconomical for operator Caribou Coach.
Kasper Wabinski, CEO of Kasper Transportation, says he's received a lot of feedback from residents who want the service to resume.
"I've spent a long time thinking how I can improve on the ridership. People are definitely interested in using the service to get to Thunder Bay or Kenora for medical, business or personal reasons," he said in an interview Tuesday.
Wabinski added that his buses will also transport parcels for business.
The schedule will be set up to allow people to catch a Kasper bus that connects Kenora to Winnipeg. The westbound run will be offered each Monday and Thursday, while the eastbound run will operate every Tuesday and Friday.
Kasper is prepared to add two more days of service and a second bus to the route to provide service in the reverse direction should ridership increase sufficiently.
The company has a fleet of almost 30 vehicles with capacities ranging from 11 to two seats.
"We've been pretty busy here getting our ducks lined up...We've got the vehicles ready and the drivers ready" for the new route, Wabsinski said.
He hopes the expressions of interest he's heard from the public will be reflected in ridership.
"I'm asking for people's support. The more support we get, the more cost-effective I can make that route," he said.
Wabinski said he's also interested in hearing from anyone who wants to work with the company or has partnership ideas.
Kasper Transportation operates a number of other routes in the northwest and Manitoba.
Under a partnership with the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission that was announced in December, Kasper buses will also link up with ONTC bus service in the eastern part of the region.