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Amalgamation: Uniting Two Systems 1970s-1990s

AerialIntercityBWThe population of the Thunder Bay region by 1968 was approximately 97,000. There were two daily newspapers, two transit systems, two police departments and two mayors who presided over two separate councils. 

On Tuesday, April 16, 1968, 150 residents heard Provincial Municipal Affairs’ Minister Darcy McKeough outline major recommendations contained in the Lakehead Government Review Report, otherwise known as the Hardy Report. The number one recommendation in this report was that the cities of Fort William and Port Arthur, and adjacent territories from the Municipalities of Shuniah and Neebing, be joined to form a single Lakehead city.

On January 1, 1970, Thunder Bay was born.  With the amalgamation of two cities, Thunder Bay Transit (TBT) was created and the city underwent a large public transit study to establish the best way to service the new city. Thunder Bay transit faced a number of hiccups during its early years as officials attempted to find the most economical way to provide public transportation to a region that was once two separate cities with surrounding townships. 

The first step to transit integration was taken in October of 1969 with the commencement of the main-line coach operation in both cities while still turning at the intercity boundary. In January of 1970, a new fare structure came into effect. Adult ticket and cash rates were increased but the collection of additional fares on buses going from one ward to another were eliminated. Thunder Bay citizens were now able to travel anywhere on the transit system for the payment of one fare. Additionally, to facilitate passenger loading and handling of fares, and to reduce costs to passengers who regularly travel by bus in one ward only, a special "economy" pass was introduced where patrons could purchase twenty rides for $3.50. The new pass was popular from the start - 58,000 were sold by the end of the year. Rates for students, children and senior citizens did not change. By June of 1970, the new "Crosstown" route commenced operation providing direct service from the southwest section of Thunder Bay to the Arthur and the Cumberland districts, and reducing the travel time by 15 minutes.

With financial assistance from the Department of Transportation and Communications, the City of Thunder Bay decided to embark on a transit study intended to establish goals and objectives for the transit system and to upgrade its operation.

It was the flexibility of the diesel bus over the trolley and the cost of maintaining the aging fleet of trolleys that decided that the last remnants of the Lakehead's electric public transit would be put to rest. As per the recommendation of the 1970 Public Transit Study, a new centrally-located Transit facility was opened in 1975 in the intercity area on Fort William Road.  By 1982, the Brodie and Water Street Terminals were added, as well as the new and familiar colour scheme of blue and white. The exact cash fare system came into effect in the 1980s, and by 1987 electronic registering fare boxes were installed on all buses.

During the 1980s Thunder Bay Transit received eight prestigious awards from the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) and American Public Transit Association (APTA). Four of the awards that TBT received were Certificates of Achievement from the APTA for improved safety records from previous years. From CUTA, Thunder Bay Transit received awards for industrial and passenger safety improvements in 1981 and then again in 1982 and 1985.

In 1975, Handi-Transit, a parallel system to carry those unable to board a conventional bus, was established. In 1985, Handi-Transit was incorporated into the Transit department's annual budget so that they would no longer need to apply and compete for federal and provincial funding every year. Accessible Transit has had an increased demand for service ever since.

As Thunder Bay Transit entered into the 90s, another major study by a consulting firm was undertaken. The study was approved by Council in July 1990 and implemented in two stages in September of that year and January 1991. The major features were a new route into the Balmoral area, doubling the service in the Neebing area and changes to several other routes. Ridership climbed steadily in the late 1980s and reached a peak of 4.5 million in 1989. By 1990 the total number of passengers was levelling off at 4.3 million.

 Transit Study Recommendations 1970 pg 4  Thunder Bay Transit Study 1970                          
 handitransitthumbnail Handi-Transit
 Farethumbnail  History of Fares 1974-1984
 transit roadeo thumbnail  Transit Roadeo
 amalgamationgallery39  Photograph and Document Gallery