By COLLIN GALLANT on September 16, 2020.
“On demand” transit service is coming in Medicine Hat’s north end in a pilot project this fall, with administrators saying the hope is to boost ridership and, therefore revenue, while potentially reducing costs by aligning set routes.
It will also add potential stops for weekday evening service and expand coverage, but only dispatch a bus to new points when it’s requested via a new transit phone app or via traditional telephone bookings.
“We’re hoping to increase ridership and better understand the travel routes in the community,” said transit manager Mike Spicer, whose department will offer the service on weeknights between 6:45 and 10:45 p.m.
At those times and on the two routes that cover northeast and northwest Crescent Heights, ridership averages 10 to 15 riders each hour.
Starting Sept. 30, riders can request pickup and drop-off at a set variety of off-route locations, with the hopes of getting more people on the buses, and with those patterns tracked automatically throw a smartphone app.
The app, created by developer Spare Labs, was paid for with a grant from Ottawa’s Innovative Solutions Canada program. It’s available for free from Apple or Google Play stores.
Officials said Tuesday that the system will increase “accessibility” in the areas, and the data will be compiled over a three-month period, then folded into decision making about expanding the service, or reconfiguring set routes for better efficiency.
“We will be able to access new neighbourhoods, like Parkview and Ranchlands,” said Spicer.
“Transit services are currently subsidized 81 per cent. The need to find more efficient ways of providing this essential service to the community is critical as the city continues to face financial challenges.”
The city faced controversy and public backlash from both users and critics when it revamped routes in 2017 and severely curtailed night and weekend service. Those changes, expected to save $600,000 per year, were reversed by council vote.