Pressing ahead with plans for some kind of bus service to Breslau, Grand River Transit is looking for public input in the second phase of its engagement process.
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.
The first phase of public input occurred in September, with GRT receiving feedback from some 165 people, about half from Breslau, with some 40 per cent expressing an interest in the service.
With the second phase, the region will be looking for more details, including support for the on-demand model, which looks to avoid having a large bus running largely empty through a regular route, particularly in a location like Breslau where usage would be light.
The GRT was pleased with the initial input, including those who would like to travel to Breslau, said principal planner Will Towns.
“That would encapsulate people who work at the major employers or they’re maybe going for school [a post-secondary institute]. We heard from the people that we wanted to hear from, which was great.”
Respondents showed an interest in connecting to the transit hubs, the Kitchener GO station, and the universities and colleges in the region.
Concerns expressed ranged from costliness of using the service to having fixed stops causing more traffic in the village. Many interested said they would only support the project if it were the same fare rate as other GRT services, with others citing concerns about difficulties with using a smartphone and app interface, and no fixed stop locations.
There were also concerns over the service being some kind of ride-sharing service, said Towns.
“People have a skepticism… they don’t want this to be sort of a contracted, privatized Uber-style service. Does that mean we can’t use a contracted partner? No, but it is a case where we need to differentiate this type of service. There is sort of some confusion between on-demand transit, run by a public agency, with shared rides and your traditional kind of Uber or Lyft ride sharing. So, there were certainly some concerns that the service would be more, towards that end of the spectrum,” he explained.
With the second data collection phase now underway, Towns encourages people to provide feedback on the project by participating in the online survey or by calling the question line at 519-575-4400.
“Tell us what you like, tell us what you don’t like and tell us things that you would change if you were pulling the strings. Nothing’s been decided at the moment. And we’re still at this sort of exploratory stage of kind of narrowing down and getting to what a community preference is like – so any and all feedback is encouraged.”
GRT has been working with Metrolinx, the provincial agency delivering GO Transit services, since last year in developing the on-demand pilot project. Right now, there is no timeline for rolling out a trial period, though it wouldn’t be before 2022.
“Metrolinx is of the opinion that …’ we don’t need to rush this.’ I think it’s taken us a little bit longer maybe than we thought to kind of figure out what an appropriate online-only consultation program would look like, or engagement program,” said Towns. “But we’re not… about compromised transit, we’re not looking to rush this, we want to launch this service when it has the greatest chance of success and use. We’re going to take as long as we need to get the service details nailed down.”
Overview of project :