Exploring transit options for Breslau, the Region of Waterloo wants input from the public ahead of launching a pilot project in the village.
Rather than a conventional bus service, Grand River Transit (GRT) is contemplating what it calls an on-demand service, in which there is no fixed route, rides are shared and levels of vehicle supply are matched to demand. Riders will be able to book a vehicle to pick them up through the use of a phone application, for instance.
That avoids having a large bus running largely empty through a regular route, particularly in a location like Breslau where usage would be light.
GRT has been working with Metrolinx, the provincial agency delivering GO Transit services, since last year in developing the on-demand pilot project.
“We’re looking to hear from those who live and work in Breslau, as well as those interested in travelling to and from Breslau. Your responses will help the Region of Waterloo and Metrolinx design an on-demand transit pilot service for this area,” says the regional website outlining the survey.
“We’re looking for people to fill out a survey which asks about a whole variety of things pertaining to travel, and things that they would like to see in the context of the project that we’re planning. It’s a pilot project, to try to bring some sort of on demand transit to Breslau,” said Will Towns, the region’s principal planner for transit development, in an interview.
Some of the survey questions focus on people’s familiarity with on-demand transit, specifically. More general questions inquire about where people intend to travel and areas or other transit forms, they wish to connect to-like Metrolinx’s GO station in Kitchener. (A park-and-ride GO station is planned for Breslau, as well.)
The project is to be the region’s first fully on-demand transit system. When launching pilot projects in the past, the region has offered select routes with occasional stops that were request-only; in Breslau, it would be on-demand only.
Given that the survey is being carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic, some questions pertain to people’s comfort with public transit, explained Towns.
“We’re conscious of the fact that this is a unique time to try to plan a new service,” he said, noting the pilot was set to launch in March but was bumped back due to the virus and shutdown of the economy. “Just as we were about to launch things in March, our timelines were sort of thrown out of whack by COVID.”
The general survey closes on September 25, to be followed by the drafting of a plan for Breslau service. When the pilot launches will depend on several variables, including public engagement and, of course, COVID-19. It’s expected to run for at least one year.
Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz said she supports the project. “We have been advocating for a pilot bus project in Breslau for a number of years and are looking forward to finally testing the potential for a link to transit.”
In addition to the general survey on the Engage Waterloo website, the region is also looking for participants to take part in more in-depth feedback, including a set of interviews and virtual workshops.