Members of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation have a new reserve bus service with a stop at Western University.
The bus will go from the reserve to three stops in London. At Western, the bus stops at the Elgin Road and Western Road intersection. The other two stops will be at Fanshawe College and downtown at Atlohsa Native Family Healing Services Centre.
Lori Runciman, the director of grants at the London Community Foundation, notes that the service is important due to the large population of Chippewas of the Thames people, which she said is roughly 3,000. She said that the 25-passenger bus has currently reached a third of its capacity, most of which are students. The reserve currently has around 50 post-secondary students, according to the community’s economic development officer Dwayne Kechego.
Kechego said the bus service is to promote employment opportunities. Before, there was a lack of reliable transportation from the reserve to London, which is about a one-hour commute.
“The bus service is important because it’s building bridges between communities and creating pathways of belonging through which Chippewas of the Thames individuals and families can make the journey ... to self-reliance, productivity and sustainable prosperity,” Runciman said.
The Chippewas of the Thames community sent an application to the London Community Foundation last spring regarding issues of transportation from the reserve to London. The foundation contributed a little over $55,000 through the community fund for Canada’s 150 to fund the bus service.
The new service is a part of a three-year pilot project to evaluate the success of the service. The Chippewas of the Thames community also has back up vans if the bus fills up.
During the month of November, the bus service is offered for free; after that band members will pay $3 for one-way tickets. Children under the age of 12 will ride for free.
The service is run by the Chippewas of the Thames community and is currently making two round trips on weekdays, starting at 7 a.m. The bus picks up band members from three stops around the perimeters of the reserve.