OTTAWA -- OC Transpo is exploring the possibility of launching an on-demand transit service to boost ridership on buses.

The Transit Service's 2021 Business Plan outlines ten proposed key priorities for 2021, including "on-demand transit."

Staff say as a condition of provincial funding to replace lost revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is required to evaluate the applicability of "microtransit" to the OC Transpo system. Microtransit is defined as demand-responsive transit, offering flexible service options.

The review of microtransit will examine the ways that on-demand service can improve service for customers or reduce costs. Staff are speaking with several vendors and will report back to the Transit Commission in the future.

"Benefits of an on-demand program could include more efficient use of resources, appropriate and flexible responsiveness to customer demand and reduced vehicle emissions," said the report for Wednesday's Transit Commission meeting.

"Staff will work with potential vendors on modelling scenarios that will assist in the evaluation by providing information on key metrics, estimates of ridership change, estimate of operating cost savings and an evaluation of suitability of the service areas selected to be modelled."

In 2018, Belleville launched on-demand service for overnight bus routes. Riders can now book on demand bus service in evenings.

Coun. Carol Anne Meehan was quoted in media reports this week as saying OC Transpo should explore launching on-demand bus service to help boost ridership during the pandemic.

Mayor Jim Watson told Newstalk 580 CFRA that staff are looking at the idea of on-demand transit.

"Belleville is a pretty small town compared to the city of Ottawa, and our geography is massive. I'm not sure how it would work," said Watson. "If the staff think it works; great, we'll try it. If not, let's not start competing with the private sector."

The Transit Commission will discuss the ten proposed key priorities for OC Transpo in 2021. Here are the proposed key priorities:

  1. Operational Response to COVID-19
  2. Battery-Electric Bus Project
  3. Transit Fare Working Group
  4. On-Demand Transit
  5. Enhanced Real-Time Information for Customers
  6. Permanent Bus Operator Barriers
  7. Legislated Improvements to Operator Breaks
  8. O-Train Line 1 Station Improvements
  9. Rail Simulator Upgrades
  10. Stage 2 O-Train Project Construction