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OC Transpo ordering 10 minibuses for future on-demand service

A ParaTranspo vehicle is seen driving through a residential neighbourhood in Ottawa on September 23, 2020. A ParaTranspo vehicle is seen driving through a residential neighbourhood in Ottawa on September 23, 2020.

OC Transpo is ordering 10 minibuses for use in future on-demand transit projects.

Transit Commission heard Thursday that the on-demand pilot project in Blackburn Hamlet has been considered a success, with 191 trips on Sundays and holidays between Feb. 11 and June 9.

The pilot project replaced Route 28 service on Sundays and holidays. Users could book an on-demand trip by calling OC Transpo or using an app. The pilot project was intended to test how on-demand service would work within the OC Transpo network.

Orléans West-Innes Coun. Laura Dudas said she took the on-demand transit regularly.

"It was a game changer. It was a wonderful experience," she said. "The interactions with the bus operators, it was very neighbourly. The buses could use side streets, weren't relegated to specific routes … and it brought in a really good experience for myself and all other users who shared their experience with me."

There was some controversy when the plan was announced. Advocates for transit riders with disabilities were critical of OC Transpo's use of Para Transpo buses to offer on-demand service. Regular Para Transpo users have been demanding on-demand service for years, as they must still book a day in advance for Para Transpo trips. City staff said riders with disabilities could also access on-demand service like any other rider.

Staff said 76 per cent of on-demand trips took riders to or from Blair Station. Customers spent fewer than 15 minutes per ride, on average.

On-demand transit in Blackburn Hamlet will be available for two more Sundays, concluding on June 23 when the current software contract for the pilot project expires. Route 28 will return on Sundays starting June 30.

Dudas said she's excited to see OC Transpo expand the project.

"I would certainly say that it's going to be a tool in the toolbox. I don't think it's going to work in every community," she said, "but I do think it's going to be part of the puzzle. It can't just be the train, it can't just be buses, it can't just be Para Transpo; we have to look at every opportunity to best serve riders in our community."

Staff said they would issue a request for proposals for software provisions with the goal of implementing longer-term on-demand service in more areas of the city by next year, when the ordered minibuses are set to arrive. Top Stories

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