November 25th, 2020

On-demand transit expanding

By COLLIN GALLANT on November 21, 2020.

Bus routes servicing the South Hill and River Flats will move to on-demand service program starting Nov. 30, the weekday evening pickups, the Medicine Hat Transit department announced on Friday.--NEWS PHOTO COLLIN GALLANT

On-demand bus service that was launched in the north end of Medicine Hat this fall will expand to central areas on Nov. 30, the city’s transit department announced Friday.

At that time, the service that asks riders to book evening rides through a smartphone app or via traditional telephone bookings, will role out on the South Hill and River Flats routes (Nos. 20 and 22, respectively).

That is similar to a pilot that covered two routes in Crescent Heights this fall, and where officials say uptake has been “very positive.”

“Overall, we’ve heard from riders that the they would like us to expand it as soon as possible,” said Mike Spicer, the MHT manager.

The pilot was an attempt by managers to reduce runs on set routes during low volume times. Specific hours are between 6:45 p.m. and last run at 10:45, p.m., on week days.

Spicer said that over the 60-day pilot in the northeast and northwest communities, the number of kilometres travelled in the evening hours has been cut in half. That has led to lower fuel and maintenance costs, though the number of buses running and personnel involved has remained the same.

“We expect the same results in the South Hill and River Flats,” said Spicer, noting that ridership has remained about the same from the summer, though reduced from pre-COVID levels.

In general the amount of evening travel is reduced, likely due to earlier store closures, said Spicer.

He expects volumes to increase when business conditions stabilize and return to normal hours.

The route to the hospital (route 21) will remain at fixed times due to the essential nature of travel, as well as relatively high ridership.

To date, about 500 people have downloaded the cell-phone application that allows users to book rides, choose from a list of pickup and drop off locations as well as track arrival times.

It can be acquired free of charge at the Apple Store or Google Play. Rides can be booked traditionally through a booking agent by phoning 403-529-8214, and choosing option No. 2.

Afternoon public information sessions will be held Nov. 25-27 starting at 3 p.m. at the Transit terminal. More information on MHTNow can be found at the city’s website.

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