Ottawa Pushes For On-Demand Busses

By Ben Hamill - March 12 2021

Ottawa Pushes For On-Demand Busses

A new transit model is being called on by an Ottawa city councillor. As OC Transpo continues to experience low ridership numbers resulting from the new normal ushered in by the global health crisis, a ride-on-demand model not unlike those followed by Uber and Lyft, is beginning to look like the best possible remedy for the dwindling passenger numbers.

According to Ottawa councillor Carol Anne Meehan, the region’s transit system was specifically designed for transporting people from the outskirts and the suburbs to the city’s central business district. But now that more and more people are permanently working from home, fewer and fewer people are making use of the service provided by the city, which has now led to Ottawa being an estimated $1 million out of pocket per week. And it’s a bleeding of money Meehan said the city is no longer able to absorb.

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Ridership Nowhere Near Normal

According to data published by OC Transpo, ridership numbers have been up and down all throughout last year’s stay-at-home orders. By March 2020, ridership had dropped by a devastating 85 per cent, and by January this year, it had only recovered to around 18 per cent of pre-crisis levels. Although February saw the numbers improve slightly to 21 per cent, Meehan said the expectation is that riders won’t be returning to the service to anywhere near the extent seen prior to the onset of the crisis of 2020.

It is for this reason Meehan says she’s pushing hard for the city to follow the example set by Belleville, Ontario. Belleville was the first North American city to officially launch a ride-on-demand bus transit service for an overnight bus route, and the system has reportedly worked famously.

About Belleville’s Transit System

Riders are able to book a ride by using Belleville’s transit system website. Here, they can book a pickup as well as a drop-off time.

The web-based application not only processes current booking data, but also constantly updates itself so as to optimise the already-scheduled rides. It also continuously maps the best and most economical routes in such a way that all riders are able to reach their end-destinations as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

The system furthermore also connects bus drivers to the software’s booking system via email and continuous updates. Drivers receive these notifications via an on-bus tablet.

The system has been working well, and according to transit manager Paul Buck, the average waiting time for a bus is only nine minutes. The average trip, said Buck, lasts about 12 minutes.

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