All Hail the Bus

The ride-share concept comes to the business of connecting people.

Public transit is a vital service in cities and towns alike. It’s how people get to their jobs, school and the shops.

It also helps municipalities get greener, relieve pressure on their roads and reduce infrastructure costs. These sustainability goals are reflected in the Calgary Transportation Plan. The plan looks down the road to 2069 and sets goals around transit service and ridership. The City monitors its progress toward these goals. The most recent report found that we were backsliding on these targets.   

Public transit is an expensive service for municipalities to provide. And it’s one that doesn’t respond well to budget cuts. In the Calgary Transportation Plan, “Transit service needs to be frequent and reliable to attract a high level of ridership.” In other words, it’s a bit of a vicious circle: cut back service and fewer people will use transit.

Calgary is not alone in this. Transit ridership is in decline across North America. But rather than throw up their hands, some municipalities have begun to innovate. Transit on-demand projects are becoming more common. It’s an approach that combines the old with the new as public transit borrows the approach of Uber or Lyft. Like these ride-share services, transit on-demand lets you book a ride. You just might not be the only passenger.

The approach is particularly appealing in towns and smaller centres. The Town of Cochrane made headlines recently when it unveiled COLT: Cochrane On-Demand Local Transit. The service brings public transit to the rapidly growing town. Riders can request a bus at a specific stop by phone, on the website or by using the app. COLT launched with four buses and plans to double that by next year. Rides are free for the first three months of COLT and will cost $2.50 beginning in the new year.

Okotoks plans to launch its transit on-demand project December 2. The curb-to-curb service ($2.75) will pick riders up from outside any address. It also lets them track their ride in real time to avoid long waits in the cold.

These services are unique because they represent the only public transit in these towns. But transit on-demand is also used to supplement the transit service in large cities. Calgary launched a pilot project in the summer in the communities of Carrington and Livingston.  

It’s a cost-effective way of connecting people in these newer parts of the city to transit hubs and amenities. 

December 2nd, 2019

Transit on-demand lets people grab the bus on their own schedule.