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The City has a responsibility to support the movement of people throughout Sault Ste. Marie, whether it be to and from work, appointments, essential services or recreational options. Transit is one of the most important services the City provides, and staff is working hard to provide a service that meets the needs of users.
City Council received an update on Transit Services at Monday night’s meeting in the form of a report about an on demand transit one-year pilot. As a means of making the best use of our resources and better serving users, the City is seeking proposals to shift to an on demand model starting with a pilot for Sunday evenings this summer (an RFP will be issued in the near term).
Staff have analyzed usage patterns and found that an average of 445 passengers per evening accessed the service on Sunday evenings during the period between January 13, 2019 and February 10, 2019 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Most stops were not utilized and most service needs were concentrated into specific areas.
The goal of the on demand service is to respond directly to ride requests as they come in, instead of sparsely populated buses travelling to routes that are underutilized during off-peak hours. People will have the option to use a mobile app to request pickup from a City bus and the RFP will include a request that another option be provided for those without a cell phone.
Belleville Transit recently implemented an on demand system with impressive results (ex: monthly ridership increased from 1,500 to 4,300 passengers) and staff have been in discussions with the team in Belleville regarding their project.
Along with the on demand pilot, the City has partnered with the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board for a new initiative, Transit Services received a budgetary increase of $300,000 to ensure the summer schedule hours are consistent with the rest of the year and the 2019 City Budget included a $4 million investment for new buses, transit shelters and the establishment of a northern transfer point.
The City recognizes we need to improve our Transit Services. We are working on it and we will continue to work on it until we are delivering the service our community deserves.