Can Uber replace Transit in Cobourg?

In reviewing Taxi ByLaws, Town Clerk Brent Larmer expanded his report to Council to include a short review of what the Town of Innisfil was doing with Uber to substitute for a Town Transit System.  Innisfil didn’t have a Transit system but citizens wanted something cheaper than a taxi to get around.  Typically, Towns do this by subsidizing a Transit system with fixed route buses but Innisfil decided to look into teaming up with Uber to provide transport between designated spots in the Town for a price of $4 – $6 with the balance of the cost paid by the Town. They can also go anywhere in the Town door-to-door with a $5 discount over the Uber fee. The Town saves on Capital costs and they have found their system to be popular.

Innisfil - Uber
Innisfil – Uber

To get more detail, read Brent’s report (see link below) but here’s a summary

  • Innisfil is larger than Cobourg with a population of 36,566 and an area of 263 sq. km compared to Cobourg at 19,440 and 22 sq. km.  Innisfil is just south of Barrie on Lake Simcoe.
  • To get a ride, citizens need a phone with a special App but it works 24/7 with wait times typically around 6 minutes – not bad compared to a bus or even a taxi.
  • The original idea included a partnership with local taxis for an accessible service but this has never been used – probably because the local Red Cross provides a transportation service in the Innisfil area for persons with disabilities.  (Community Care does something similar in Cobourg).
  • In 2018 there were 85,943 trips, 2,203 drivers and 5,749 riders.
  • The cost to the Town in 2018 was $640K

Brent finished this section of his report with a request that if Council wants staff to investigate this ridesharing partnership option, then:

Council should direct Staff to provide a detailed report and analysis comparing the current system that is in place (Public Transit, Taxi Services and other transportation networks) to determine if the market, public interest, cost analysis and feasibility based on demographic is an option for consideration.

Councillors Emily Chorley and Nicole Beatty liked this idea and moved that this be done with a report back (if possible) by 22 June 2020.  The motion was carried.

The way it works in Innisfil may not be right for Cobourg but maybe there’s something similar that will.


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David Hughes
1 February 2020 9:11 am

May I suggest that a program like this involve both Cobourg and Port Hope given that a good number of Seniors healthcare services are located in both municipalities. Secondly, although the taxi industry in Innisfil did not participate in any initial offerings it would be wrong to presume that Taxi operators in Port Hope and Cobourg would not, so invite them to participate. Lastly, if Cobourg would accept outside PAID advertising on their buses, this could certainly be something to consider if after full review, any Uber/Taxi option is voted down!

30 January 2020 5:14 pm

An Uber gig might help some of the jobless (or soon to be jobless) in town. Could make for a 2nd income for some families.

Reply to  Frenchy
31 January 2020 7:37 am

The “unemployed in Cobourg” the replaced Cab drivers?? Uber cheaper, lower licensing standards. Perhaps Town Council could work harder on reducing costs of living in Cobourg rather than offering cheap Uber services with lower safety nets on drivers and cars.

Reply to  Observer
31 January 2020 8:58 am

I was thinking about some of the upcoming jobless at the Weston plant, but yes, in other centers cab drivers are also Uber drivers in their off time. So yeah, it might help them too.
It appears as though Council is trying to do something about the cost of living while at the same time promoting better service. Uber might end of being cheaper than our current transit service while providing better service (door to door, 24 hours per day). According to anecdotal evidence it might be better, cheaper and cleaner service than our existing taxi cabs too.
At least Council is willing to look at the situation rather than just turn a blind eye to any options and stick with the (woefully low) status quo.

Reply to  Observer
2 February 2020 11:16 am

It would be interesting to know how many times our Mayor made outside presentations in the last year on ” Locate your business in Cobourg”. We need new good paying jobs in our town.

A Senior without a Smart phone
30 January 2020 3:50 pm

This would not be “senior friendly” since so many of us do not have smart phones, haven’t a clue about “aps” and would be concerned about the safety aspects of getting into cars with unknown, unlicensed drivers… Admittedly, I do not currently use the Transit but the day may come…

Reply to  A Senior without a Smart phone
30 January 2020 4:42 pm

the drivers are checked and have Police reports on them
Licenced Certainly
but they must carry and have adequate Liability Insurance to
be approved by Uber may be more so than our cobourg Cab drivers
that work for very small Cos.
and usually you are getting into the Driver Owners car who looks after it and has to meet Uber standards — not some one who you don’t know that drives for a Cab Co. and their standards .

Reply to  perplexed
31 January 2020 7:33 am

To be a licensed cab driver you are required to have a police check. You then are subject to a licensing body which reviews police check. Criminal convictions for people crimes – assault – sexual assault cause a cab license not to be issued. The Licensing Body receives reports of driver misconduct as well as the company employing the driver. Review and ability to yank license by legislative body. Cabs must meet standards – can not be older than, Uber cars by company pleasure. Adequate Liability Insurance – Cabs are required to carry legislated insurance requirements by industry. Cabs are required to carry picture and licensing driver details – Uber does not. Uber drivers are by company standards and someone you don’t know and may not be the signed up driver. Cab Drivers attend Cab School which ensures among other things drivers know fastest route.

Reply to  Observer
31 January 2020 8:43 am

Makes you wonder why there seems to be a demand for the 90,000 Uber drivers in Toronto alone.

Reply to  Frenchy
31 January 2020 8:52 am

Well Frenchy people always like to get a cheap price. Accountability is lacking – once worked for the Licensing Commission – Cab Drivers specifically. Uber does not have the same standards for licensing. It is all about the dollar – yet to be a cab driver municipalities insist on regulation which is not applied to UBER. You get what you pay for.

Reply to  Observer
31 January 2020 10:42 am

fFrstly, I do not have an Uber app or smartphone. But on 2 occasions with a friend in Mississauga I have taken 2 rides with Uber…..
you get cost upfront…maybe higher during peak times, both vehicles large new clean suv’s. you then get to tip after the ride on your app, so good service tip, bad not so much. Both drivers super friendly.
The Uber experience quite interesting in Innisfil.
You can go to Innisfil transportation page for all their info and see how it works.

Mrs. Anonymous
30 January 2020 12:29 pm

If the town were to adopt such a model, I would like to know if the Town of Cobourg would be on the hook for insurance due to joint and several liability in the event of a catastrophic injury/ies.

30 January 2020 10:57 am

Must be dumb – it costs $2. to ride the bus. How is Uber a financial benefit to people without a car? Must be missing something here. Plus as another commented phone cost, app cost, Uber ride cost. Am I mathematically challenged? Or are they talking about the areas not served by the current town bus system?

Reply to  Observer
30 January 2020 12:05 pm

You might think differently if you had to trudge a few blocks to the bus stop and wait there in cold and wind, wondering whether the bus has already gone by – ahead of schedule – or whether it will take another 20 minutes for it to appear. Then at your destination, you have to walk from the bus in the same cold and wind. Then you have to trudge back home again from the bus stop, carrying groceries etc. over icy uncleared sidewalks.
I know whereof I speak, and would sure appreciate a door-to-door service at a reasonable cost and reliability as an alternative.

Reply to  JimT
30 January 2020 12:34 pm

They do have an app that shows where the bus is. Bus stops in Cobourg are all over the place. But then again Jim I was raised in an area that conditioned me to take the bus in a home that said waste not want not – taxis were seldom ever used in our neighbourhood by anyone. But then again it is a different generation today. Take out food as opposed to home cooking, buy without saving a down payment. Uber drivers are not well checked out. There have been many crimes committed by these drivers and you thought you were safe!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Observer
31 January 2020 3:45 pm

They do have an app that shows where the bus is.

Yes and the app requires a smartphone with a data plan. Durka and several others have commented that requiring a phone makes Uber unacceptable.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 February 2020 12:24 pm

Actually, it doesn’t. I access it on my home computer, though it sometimes isn’t working. The bus driver said they appreciate it when they are notified because they have no way of knowing.
I will never get a “data plan” on my cell phone, so Uber doesn’t exist for me and my situation.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  JimT
2 February 2020 12:41 pm

Actually, it doesn’t. I access it on my home computer, though it sometimes isn’t working.

JimT, taking your home computer to the bus stop and then finding a public WiFi so that you can check the bus location must be a real challenge!

Reply to  Ken Strauss
2 February 2020 1:02 pm

Yes, the best I can do is check before I go and hope it’s working and that it’s accurate. When it goes down, it shows where the bus was, hours ago possibly, or not at all.

Reply to  JimT
30 January 2020 3:32 pm

Perhaps in the near future Wal-Mart or another grocery store will offer grocery shopping by phone/computer and also offer a delivery service at a reasonable cost for Cobourg.

Reply to  cornbread
30 January 2020 6:48 pm

Our stores don’t do this already? Pretty sure at least Foodland provides this service.

Reply to  Frenchy
30 January 2020 8:10 pm

I too am pretty sure Foodland has provided this service for a long time now. Every now and then, people calling Foodland misdialed and reached my office number instead and asked for groceries.

Tom Holden
30 January 2020 9:56 am

Combine Cobourg and Hamilton Township and the area and population is more comparable to Innisfill: 30,000 people on 270 Potential huge benefits. Question of whether it would be more or less green when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

30 January 2020 9:02 am

By the time this happens another yr will go by
You don’t know if you don’t give it a try
nothing is perfect so like any business person you think on your feet and work out the Bugs as you go along . and why do we have to buy into every thing Show Uber the areas that the already open market is lacking I am sure someone for profit will fill the gaps
as competitively as possible . Just don’t make the costs of licencing and fees to the town
so prohibitive that no one will pick up the slack

29 January 2020 8:56 pm

Harmonize Mobility already work with other Canadian Municipalities in regards to transit!

29 January 2020 6:15 pm

What happens to those without a smartphone and data plan? Both extremely expensive.

Reply to  Durka
29 January 2020 7:01 pm

Really ?
I am paying $24 a month for unlimited across Canada , unlimited texting, and 1.5 gig of data a month on Freedom, cheaper than a landline

Reply to  Mark
29 January 2020 7:12 pm

How about your phone?

Reply to  Durka
29 January 2020 9:21 pm

Great Christmas gift idea for Grandma.

Reply to  Durka
30 January 2020 12:44 pm

There are phones for less than $100 to buy

Reply to  Mark
31 January 2020 10:23 pm

And since phone companies aren’t allowed to do term contracts in Canada, the usual technique is to let you amortize the cost of your phone over 2-3 years, and you only owe the remaining balance at once if you cancel the plan earlier, in which case you still own the phone and can often bring that phone to another provider.

Koodo right now has a phone you can get for a total cost of $10/month for 2 years.

29 January 2020 4:16 pm

From Mr. Larmer’s Report (link above): “Without any changes to lnnisfil Transit fares, Staff are anticipating total costs are likely to be in the $1‐1.2 million range for 2019 due to the popularity and growth of the service, along with the Town’s growing population (approximately 1,000 new residents each year). In anticipation
of the increasing costs, ride fares were increased in 2019 and the number of rides per month
were capped at 30 after which time the rider has to pay full fare for additional rides.”

And let’s not have an essential public service like accessible transportation rely on volunteer drivers.

Good idea to get the report, though, as Council has requested.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  MiriamM
29 January 2020 10:39 pm

Consider a few of the numbers provided by John:
Cobourg spent $810,395 on transit in 2013 or about $44 per resident.
The Innisfil system cost $640K in 2018 or about $18 per resident.
Innisfil has twice the population of Cobourg and 10 times the area of Cobourg yet spends less! Even the projected $1‐1.2 million range for 2019 is far cheaper than Cobourg’s system.

What is not to like about a service that provides door-to-door travel and costs less than the bus?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
30 January 2020 9:01 am

Again though, what about people who don’t have a smartphone and data?

Reply to  Durka
30 January 2020 12:10 pm

Yes, like me, for example. I don’t want internet access on my phone. Period.
What if there were a central office, manned by volunteers, perhaps, that I could call and have them key in my request if I gave them my location?

Reply to  JimT
30 January 2020 1:32 pm

Geez JimT, did you resist indoor plumbing and colour television too? Instead of calling that central office, why not just write them a letter?😊

Reply to  Frenchy
31 January 2020 2:45 pm

I had one of those devices and it made a terrible phone. It was a curse to use so I sent it back. Never again. Plus your phone no. can be “ported” and thieves can then clean out your bank account if it’s linked.
I don’t want it or need it.

Reply to  JimT
31 January 2020 11:00 pm

The world need not stand still for those who refuse to change. Or, to misquote Hericlitus: “All things are change.” Move on.