An Innovative Transit system

Mayor John Henderson has been in talks for some time with Port Hope’s Mayor Bob Sanderson and Hamilton Mayor Bill Cane about an integrated Transit system covering all three Towns.  Currently Cobourg operates two systems – regular transit operating two one hour loops and a “Wheels” on-demand service with smaller buses providing service for residents who cannot use regular buses.  Instead of that, Judy Smith proposes using much smaller fully accessible buses to provide on-demand door to door service for everyone.  All rides would be booked and paid for using an app and the usual wait would be no more than half an hour.  Judy is the Climate Change Coordinator for the Town of Cobourg and Environmental Officer for the County of Northumberland.  She reminded Council of this idea at a presentation to Council today, August 31, because Cobourg is currently considering replacing the old full-size buses they have.

This kind of service is currently operational in Okotoks Alberta and appears to be successful.  Judy said that Belleville is considering such a system.  The special buses are based on a Dodge RAM and cost $167K each.  The required software is about $250K.  Judy did not have any indication of operating costs but fuel would be less since buses are smaller – and there is a hybrid version available for even greater savings and environmental benefit.

The system works best in smaller communities – Okotoks has a population of 29,000.  The size would govern the number of buses needed.

Judy is working on a Climate Action Plan that would include this idea – she expects to present it to Council shortly.

Okotoks has posted a video on You-Tube describing their system.

Although they seemed impressed with the idea (dubbed MicroTransit), Council made no decision or recommendation on Judy’s proposal. Judy was prompted to bring this forward since last week at the Committee of the Whole meeting, Council approved applying for a Provincial grant to buy new buses. Although it was not discussed, it may be possible for this money to be used to implement this innovative idea.


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2 September 2020 7:34 pm

Having door-to-door service would make a huge, huge difference for those who are currently faced with the prospect of lugging home bags of groceries or other purchases from the “nearest” bus stop. Especially old folks. Especially in the depths of winter. Especially old folks in the depths of winter.

Last edited 2 years ago by JimT
Keith Oliver
Reply to  JimT
4 September 2020 3:51 pm

Jim T

No question this service would be of great help to the clientele you describe. Question is whether or not they have smart phones if calling by use of an “app” is a requirement?

What happens if they are ready to return from a public place, doctor’s office, public meeting where the duration of their visit is difficult to predict?

My point is that it’s not enough to have a great idea. To ensure its successful implementation and execution you must include the user’s at every step of the planning and evaluation process.

Is this being done?

PS … Okotoks, Alberta, is the location of some innovative landuse and affordable housing planning and implementation. If Okotoks is to be used as an example strict attention should be paid to the similarities and differences compared to Cobourg. We are a totally automobile dependant town.

Last edited 2 years ago by Keith Oliver
2 September 2020 12:11 am

Was our Transportation Advisory Committee even aware of the behind the scenes talks of the Three Amigos (Cane, Henderson and Sanderson)?
Why have these committees if you keep secrets from them?

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1 September 2020 3:14 pm

This is a system that was in place in Pickering in the early 70’s when I moved there, and had a population about the size of Cobourg now. You called the Dial a Bus number in the hour before you wanted to be picked up/dropped off, and they created a bus route for the next hour based on those calls. I think it was a government-sponsored initiative. They transitioned into fixed route service a few years later, but I’m not sure if it was growth-related or system failure. I know a lot of people appreciated the service. I’d have to think with apps and computers it could be done much more efficiently today.

Bill Prawecki
1 September 2020 1:41 pm

Thanks for the update John. It sounds like a great idea for all three communities. It is sad to see a number of negative comments from the usual folks. I am not surprised. Both communities have grown since the 50’s where everything that you needed was just a walk away at that time and below the rail lines. Let us not forget that a number of elderly folks may no longer be able to drive over time and also remember the folks who currently do not have a car …. also let us not assume that folks over 70 or even in their 90’s do not have a smart phone. This is probably the first time that we have seen the mayors of all 3 communities engaged. Now if only they could get together to plan for one police department and one fire department as a start ….. the savings here would more than cover the costs of this transit proposal. With little presence of cab service or even Uber in town we need to move forward and consider all alternatives. As a start the towns should get more stats from the service currently in place in Okotoks ….. the area that they cover, the charges, costs to maintain as well as salaries, stats on ridership …. etc.

1 September 2020 11:25 am

Did Cobourg’s Transportation Advisory Committee play any part in Judy Smith’s proposal? Didn’t see them mentioned.

1 September 2020 11:07 am

I think that Judy’s idea is creative and environmentally sound. I hope it is taken seriously so that we can go forward with new ideas like this.

1 September 2020 10:20 am

I’m not going to comment on the technicalities, but just say that it is a really good idea to have all three towns participate in a transportation service. Would it be possible to cast the net wider? Maybe as far as Colborne? My understanding that one of the reasons we got those large polluting buses was that they came with a larger subsidy from the federal government. Lousy reason. Anyone seen the small electrically powered buses in Quebec City?
P.S For me a bus in plural is buses and busses is the plural of a buss – a kiss!

John Draper
Reply to  Gailr
1 September 2020 10:52 am

OK, I bow to the majority opinion that the plural of bus is buses. Now corrected.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  John Draper
1 September 2020 12:44 pm

It’s not about a “majority opinion“, it’s about the Queen’s English being accurately used as per the Oxford English Dictionary.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Wally Keeler
2 September 2020 1:07 pm

I know that we should keep on topic but I can’t resist. The strength of the English Language is that it is a living language, responsive to change. At last count there were well over 400,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary, with tens of thousands refined or added to in two major revisions that have taken place since it was first published in full in 1928. The beauty is that using English you can say anything you want to anyone you want and do so in a civil manner.

Last edited 2 years ago by Keith Oliver
Reply to  Keith Oliver
2 September 2020 7:15 pm

…and you can even invent words such as “yer” and “fer” and drive people like me crazy when they hear the whole world using them on TV and radio.

1 September 2020 9:59 am

Another make work program , Keep the Mayors in the Head Lines
Just a way the Towns will compete with the private sector Again
that are already provide Rural type bussing Taxies and Cabs I believe there are already
2 companies with Vans in service . If you are truly handicapped * Physically * then ODSP
usually covers the cost of travel in many cases if they apply for it and if its non essential travel
then possibly the county could just develop a credit system or discount program and use the private Cab Cos. Why by the Cow when you only need a glass of Milk

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Sandpiper
1 September 2020 10:51 am

Why by(sic) the Cow when you only need a glass of Milk

The cow is bought because a community wants a glass of milk.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
1 September 2020 8:13 pm

Should those that don’t drink milk help pay for the cow?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
2 September 2020 8:26 am

Of course not. Just as people who don’t drink milk should be exempt from paying taxes anywhere. That’s the corny bread rule.

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  Sandpiper
2 September 2020 7:36 pm

Disabled seniors over age 65 are not eligible for ODSP since it is “social assistance” and that program ends at age 65.

1 September 2020 9:03 am

It is my understanding that the first smart phones were available in 2007 and downloadable apps became a standard for most phones, some you pay for but many are free as they gather meta data about the user. I would expect that this transit app would be at no cost as the rider would be paying a fee to use the service. If you have a cell phone older than 2007 good luck trying to get a 13 year old phone serviced. Land lines for phones have almost become non-existant.
I feel this innovative transportation offering is long overdue, forward thinking and will be a benefit to the community and it appears to be a lower cost overall linking 3 communities.

1 September 2020 8:58 am

Give me a break, now it’s door to door bussing?…right now we have 2 big busses driving around town all day with about 2 people per bus per hour. Every time I see a bus, it’s empty. For the actual “more than subsidized” customer cost per ride, we should be using smaller Airport type shuttle busses not these big high cost diesel jobs we have in Cobourg.

Reply to  cornbread
1 September 2020 12:16 pm

Which is fine until 5:00 pm rush hour, when there are suddenly more riders than the bus can possibly accommodate. I’ve seen this situation more than once.

Reply to  JimT
2 September 2020 3:06 pm

If they are only paying for one-third of the cost of a ride, they should be satisfied to wait for the next bus.

T Marrocco
1 September 2020 8:42 am

Has anyone checked to see if all people needing accessible busing have cell phones and data to use this cell phone App?

Reply to  T Marrocco
1 September 2020 10:50 am

Anyone who can afford a Cell Phone should be able to pay more for a heavily subsidized bus ride.

Reply to  cornbread
1 September 2020 12:25 pm

I have a perfectly usable cell phone, but it won’t work for this application because I don’t have one of those fancy internet-access gizmos that have so many applications that using it just as a phone is a pain, plus you have to pay extra for the internet access.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
1 September 2020 12:40 pm

I know of three seniors who have been gifted a cell phone by their children because the seniors were too poor. What about them cornbread?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
1 September 2020 12:57 pm

I would think the kids could also come up with a further gift.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
1 September 2020 3:24 pm

The kids do not live near by. One lives in Cambridge. The other in Calgary. Not sure about the third. So what about them poor seniors cornbread.?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
1 September 2020 8:11 pm

It ‘s called Bank Transfer from their kids.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
2 September 2020 8:30 am

And seniors who have lost their single child to disease or an auto accident and have no one — screw ’em eh corny dreads. MAKE ‘EM PAY! Screw generosity of spirit for everyone, eh?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
2 September 2020 8:51 am

And seniors who have lost their single child to disease or an auto accident and have no one — screw ’em eh corny dreads. MAKE ‘EM PAY! Screw generosity of spirit for everyone, eh?

Talk about putting words in someone’s mouth.
cornbread didn’t say “screw ’em”, you did. cornbread was replying to your post about your 3 seniors with kids, not the imaginary seniors you just invented.

Last edited 2 years ago by Frenchy
Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
2 September 2020 8:32 am

Get a load of this scorn dead, some seniors have no family members left to help. Screw ’em you say?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
3 September 2020 10:04 pm

I thought you used that line for the out of town beach migrants already?

Reply to  cornbread
1 September 2020 1:22 pm

Not everyone with a cellphone has the means to pay more for bus rides. There are many, many people in this area who use prepaid cellphones as devices they might only use in an emergency, they can’t afford data and can keep their phones operational by buying small blocks of time.

Judy Smith
Reply to  T Marrocco
2 September 2020 6:57 pm

There is a telephone number you can call to book your ride too.

T Marrocco
Reply to  Judy Smith
5 September 2020 8:23 am

Thanks Judy.

1 September 2020 8:22 am

For the record, Hamilton Township’s mayor is Bill Cane. Bob Crate is the mayor of Trent Hills.

John Draper
Reply to  Marc
1 September 2020 8:48 am

Thanks Marc. I’ve now corrected the text.

Mr. Maynard
1 September 2020 7:57 am

Sounds interesting. What if you don’t have an app?
Or the means/device to install an app? Will the busses
come to your house or existing bus stops? If to your
house, will that promise of 1/2 hour service hold up in winter and what to do with those nice (and expensive) bus shelters? Isn’t there an electric or hybrid solution-in either
case? Town should not replace existing busses with like
models. More information please.

Reply to  Mr. Maynard
2 September 2020 3:33 pm

Isn’t Innovative Transit System just another name for Uber?

Judy Smith
Reply to  Conor
2 September 2020 7:02 pm

It is a service as tailored as Uber but the driver is trained, it covers handicapped users and the drivers are not members of the gig or precarious economy.

Judy Smith
Reply to  Mr. Maynard
2 September 2020 7:00 pm

You can use a phone to call in your ride and the bus stops are a public locations that will still be necessary to have in the system if you are downtown or at Victoria Park,