The Ride Norfolk bus service was established in 2011 to provide reliable, affordable and accessible transportation options to residents of Norfolk County. It is operated by the Community Services department of Norfolk County and overseen by the Ride Norfolk Transportation Committee (RNTC). A single bus operates the fixed route service from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, with scheduled stops in a total of twelve different communities as well as several stops within the five larger towns. The town of Simcoe is a main destination as more professional services, government offices and retail outlets are located there than any other community in the county. Port Dover, Delhi, Waterford, Port Rowan, Courtland and Langton are other larger communities in in the county.
The main towns in Norfolk County are configured in a hub-and-spoke formation, with transportation corridors that connect the smaller towns to Simcoe as the hub. There is an in-town loop offered in Simcoe seven times per day. There are five out-of-town routes with different towns being offered daily. Each of the urban centers receives service one to two days per week.
There are challenges to developing a transportation service for Norfolk which may be typical to other rural communities. The overall population density is very low, and the towns are spread out across the county at distances of 15 to 40 kilometers. This creates scheduling, ridership, and costing issues.
In 2015, Ride Norfolk expanded service by offering a summer weekend service called the South Coast Shuttle. Two buses ran up and down the shoreline of Lake Erie starting at 11:00 a.m. and ending service at 12:15 a.m. This service was possible as a result of partnership with Norfolk County’s Tourism and Economic Development committees. The South Coast Shuttle was sponsored by tourism based businesses along the route; such as B&B s, restaurants, wineries, campgrounds, etc. Sponsoring businesses were given a number of promotional passes to use, as well as promotional and marketing opportunities in connection with the service including on-bus advertising. The service was considered a success by those who supported it and the plan is to continue and even expand the service further in 2016.
In the early days of Ride Norfolk, the service received criticism from some sectors. However, it seems that public opinion is beginning to change. As the costs continue to decrease and more people are using the service, more support is being generated. Now that the bus has been in operation for a few years, residents are seeing its value. For more information on Ride Norfolk, visit: www.ridenorfolk.ca.