Cobourg makes On-Demand Transit Permanent

In December 2020, Council approved a pilot of an On-Demand Transit system to replace the existing fixed route system and at the Regular Council meeting on May 16, Council approved ongoing use of the On-Demand system.  This combines the existing On-Demand Wheels system for disabled users and will soon use three smaller (8 m – 26 ft) buses which will provide service for both Wheels and regular Transit users.  This requires purchase of two new buses like the existing Wheels Bus but Government grants reduce Cobourg’s cost (more below). Council debated changes to service hours but in the end, voted to stop service at 9:00 pm instead of 10:00 pm.  A second suggestion to reduce phone-in time from 10:00 pm to 5:00 pm was defeated – this would have saved $29,000 per year.

Cobourg Wheels Bus
Cobourg Wheels Bus

Staff’s report to council included results of the Pilot and results of a survey.  KPI (Key performance Indicators) results were muddied by the pandemic but staff noticed improvement as the pandemic abated and when the Pilot was altered to “commingle” the Wheels service with the regular service.

The staff report is quite comprehensive – see Resources below for a link – it includes detailed analysis of the pilot/trial including goals and KPIs.  Below are some KPIs that seem to be the most informative.

Selected KPIs

Ridership 129 riders / weekend; 23 riders/evening
Search to book conversion rate 92%
Total Failed Search Rate 6%
Number of passengers per shared ride 2.3
Percentage of Rides at Virtual Stops 37%

Survey

A total of 78 riders submitted feedback by taking the user survey, either online or by hard copy. Of the 78 participants, only 62 had utilized the on-demand service.

  • 84% of users who had tried the service identified that moving forward post pilot they would like to see the transit service continue as On-Demand.
  • 16% of users who had tried the service identified that they would like to revert to fixed route service
  • 16 users who had not tried the service, indicated that they would like to revert to the fixed route service.

Staff concluded: Overall based on the feedback provided by those who have used On-Demand services, the new service model has been well received.

Council Motion

Below is the final motion as approved by Council.

THAT Council direct Staff to implement a Fully On-Demand Transit Service, which is Option 1 of the “On-Demand Transit Pilot Results Report”, and

FURTHER THAT Council approve the purchase of two Small Arboc 8m Specialty Vehicles (Report: Type B) at an approximate cost of $160,000.00 each for a total cost of $320,000.00, with a total Municipal contribution of $85,344.00 (26.67%), and through Metrolinx, monitor the possibility of purchasing a hybrid version of the Type B vehicle; and,

FURTHER THAT Council approve ending the hours of operation at 9:00 pm, a reduction of 1 hour, for an approximate savings of $20,000.00 annually (Report: option i), and,

FURTHER THAT Council authorize Staff to renegotiate the transit operations contract with the current provider for the remaining two (2) years to realign contract fees with the approved transit service option and vehicle types that is not to exceed the 2023/2024 fees of the current contract.

The Arboc 8m vehicles can seat 14 ambulatory + 1 mobility aid or 12 ambulatory + 2 mobility aids.

Smaller buses are needed to allow access to all residential streets including those that 30 ft buses cannot access.

Note that even the smaller buses will not be full and even if they are, the on-demand system means a second bus will accommodate the extras.

The intent is to sell the Town’s existing 30 ft buses.  No estimate has been provided of expected savings although there are predicted to be net savings because of increased ridership (eventually).

Resources

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14 Comments
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cornbread
19 May 2022 8:48 am

Cobourg should publish the “Cost per Ride” of this new system…so we can all see the full picture from start to finish including all costs such as shelters/signs/phone operators/everything.

Rob
19 May 2022 8:46 am

While I do not take the town bus myself, every thriving community requires adequate public transportation. It would appear this meets the needs of many – over time it will likely need a few tweaks however I appreciate the effort made and the contributions of those for getting this done. Now lets focus on getting Uber here and shoring up the gap in the taxi service.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Rob
19 May 2022 5:58 pm

Rob, perhaps “every thriving community requires adequate public transportation” but the reality is that rather few towns of Cobourg’s size have public transit. Cobourg’s taxpayers should not have to fund the $1M per year loss of our public transit system for the benefit of very few.

Conor
Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 May 2022 7:09 pm

Ken , according to you taxpayers of Cobourg shouldn’t have to support anything. Very few? I suspect you have a car? Give people a break.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Conor
19 May 2022 7:56 pm

Conor, I don’t consider a taxpayer funded subsidy of over $10 for every bus ride to be a “break”; “unsustainable” is a better description. Running empty and polluting buses during a climate emergency is absurd.

Conor, I thought that you were not a Cobourg resident so why are you commenting on our taxes?

Last edited 6 months ago by Ken Strauss
Rob
Reply to  Ken Strauss
20 May 2022 8:58 am

Its myopic position and response, Ken. Having school aged children attend class regularly is a benefit. Having a single parent, enrolled in the career college, being able to attend daily is a benefit. Seniors having access to medical, legal or banking appointments is a benefit. Families travelling to and from their regular shopping outing or buying supplies to school is a benefit. Providing a means to get to work everyday is a benefit.

You have clearly never been poor or in need because if you had you would understand what an inconvenience, and a blessing, public transportation is to those who require it.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Rob
20 May 2022 9:12 am

Rob, do you consider spending about 5% of your property taxes to subsidize transit for the benefit of a very few to be good use of your taxes?

Rob
Reply to  Ken Strauss
20 May 2022 9:48 am

Ken – I’ll let my previous comment and your lack of acknowledgement stand. Maybe you have questions for Marya (below) about the benefit?

marya
Reply to  Ken Strauss
21 May 2022 7:57 am

I don’t mind spending about 5% of my property taxes, which are $3,440.07 for 2022, to subsidize transit for the benefit of many more than just a few people.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Ken Strauss
29 May 2022 8:07 am

Ken

Once again, and as I’ve commented to you before, you are all about costs and never about benefits.

Rob”s post above of May 20, 8:28 am, is a great description of the benefits to those who, for whatever reason, don’t own a car.

With my declining eye sight and increasing joint problems I’ll soon be one of them. Being single and without public transit my only option will be to enroll myself in one of those warehouses we laughingly call long-term care and live out my last years in a state of permanent frustration and depression.

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
19 May 2022 7:11 pm

Rob,
You wrote “….It would appear this meets the needs of many…”. How many is “many”?
You also wrote “…every thriving community requires adequate public transportation…” What metrics are you using to determine this and why is providing highly subsidized transit is a good thing for the Town and Cobourgers in general?

120K rides per year produces about $150K in revenue per year leaving, as KS notes, about $1M per year to be funded by the public.

The rider pool that take the 120K rides per year numbers about 250-300.
$1M per year seems like a lot to spend to benefit relatively few people

Cobourg is at a tipping point regarding transit. Of Cobourg’s peers, about half don’t have transit.

Last edited 6 months ago by Bryan
marya
Reply to  Rob
20 May 2022 8:57 am

I use the transit system for shopping and for appointments. I have only positive reviews for the On-Demand System and for the return of integration, rather than the separation, of accessibility as was possible with the former Fixed-Route System.

MiriamM
18 May 2022 8:55 pm

Ok, then. Do the numbers from the survey indicate that 52.5% of people surveyed want or prefer the fixed route? If numbers of riders with on-demand service grows, it is a positive trend. However, including a fixed route connecting major destinations would be a good idea too. That was Option 2, I believe.

Last edited 6 months ago by MiriamM
Dunkirk
18 May 2022 8:18 pm

This is a home run for the Town. Well done for all involved—-and please, on behalf of all of us ratepayers, use this example of a pilot with real measurable KPI’s—-to show, that decision-making at the Town needs to be data-driven!!
Even staff performance reviews!
If we can do this with transit , what can we do with Parks?….Protective Services?…
Now, wouldn’t it be great if the software company we bought the system from actually set up an office here!
Dare to dream…..