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OC Transpo will roll out on-demand transit in Blackburn Hamlet this fall

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.
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OC Transpo will test drive on-demand transit in Blackburn Hamlet later this fall, allowing riders to book a trip like an Uber on weekends.

An on-demand transit pilot project is one of the 22 strategic initiatives in the Transit Services five-year roadmap.

The Transit Commission was told the pilot project would be conducted in Blackburn Hamlet, with on-demand service replacing Route 28 on weekends. It will provide service within the east Ottawa community and to Blair Station on Saturdays between 7 a.m. and 12 a.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (the same hours as the current Route 28 schedule).

All on-demand trips would start and end within the service zone of Blackburn Hamlet or at Blair Station.

The on-demand transit pilot project would allow customers travelling to, from or within the on-demand service zone to book a trip through a smartphone app, online or by calling OC Transpo's customer service centre. The customer would receive confirmation of their pick-up time window and location, which would be their nearest bus stop, and would pay their fare when boarding the bus.

Coun. Laura Dudas told the Transit Commission she was surprised Blackburn Hamlet was selected for the pilot project.

"I think testing on the weekends in this area will prove to be a good way of measuring success," Dudas said. "Blackburn Hamlet residents have typically used transit, have moved away from it for various reasons over the past 10 years or so. Some of it was because of reductions to service levels."

A specific start date has not been announced, but the pilot project will run between late fall and next year.

Some transit riders say they are "ticked" the transit service will be using Para Transpo buses for the on-demand service while Para Transpo customers demand improvements to the service.

"We're really ticked because it shows how much care you have about Para Transpo customers," John Redins told the Transit Commission, noting OC Transpo is launching a smartphone app for the on-demand service, but doesn't have an app to book Para Transpo trips.

The on-demand pilot project will use Para Transpo vehicles.  Staff told the Transit Commission that Para Transpo customers would be able to book trips on the on-demand service within Blackburn Hamlet.

The launch of on-demand project will be revenue neutral to OC Transpo, as the service faces a projected $40 million deficit this year.

"We are neither expecting new costs or cost savings from this demonstration pilot project," Pat Scrimgeour, Director of Transit Customer Systems and Planning, told councillors.

"We are working on this on the basis it is cost neutral, that it is doable within the current budget, within the current service hours, within the current resource allocation for that service. What we learn from this demonstration pilot project and what we find though our other research will inform any further recommendations that we give to the commission on whether this is a more cost-effective way or a more attract way to customers to provide transit service."

Staff say any expansion of the on-demand pilot to Monday to Friday service would require the purchase of additional minibuses.

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