Transit Plus to try vehicles for hire
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This article was published 01/09/2022 (213 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Taxis and other vehicles for hire could soon be helping out the city’s accessible transit service.
On Oct. 1, Winnipeg Transit Plus will start a pilot project to test out a partnership to cover “overflow trips,” with a goal to ensure all rides are granted.
“We know that prior to the pandemic, Transit Plus wasn’t always able to accommodate all trip requests, given our capacity, our vehicle resources,” said Teresa Platt, Winnipeg Transit’s manager of client services. “We want to be prepared to provide as many trips as possible with this overflow service.”
Nearly every ride has been filled over the past two years since the pandemic greatly depressed ridership but Transit Plus demand has since rebounded to 70 per cent of pre-COVID levels and is expected to continue to grow this fall, Platt said. The partnership aims to prevent a return to some ride requests being left unfilled.
Prior to the pandemic, Winnipeg Transit Plus numbers show the service was unable to provide 7,036 requested trips in 2017, followed by 7,907 in 2018 and 11,564 in 2019.
Drivers of vehicles for hire who opt to deliver accessible service under the pilot project will receive enhanced training.
Transit Plus customers will continue to book their rides the same way and pay the same fares.
“The way in which customers request service will remain unchanged. WTP will assign trips to overflow and notify customers during the pilot that their trip will be accommodated through a vehicle for hire,” the report notes.
Transit Plus demand, and that of accessible vehicles for hire, tend to peak at different times each day, so there should be capacity to take on the extra rides, Platt said.
The partnership will help the city avoid the need to seek additional contractors to provide Transit Plus service, offering access to more resources at a lower cost, said Coun. Matt Allard, head of the public works committee.
“It appears to be a win-win-win. If we weren’t doing this pilot, we would likely have to bring in a… new transit plus contract in order to fill the (overflow) rides. This opens up a whole new fleet of vehicles,” said Allard.
An advocate for people living with disabilities said he’s “cautiously optimistic” the new pilot program will improve the system.
“Anything that is going to increase capacity is worth exploring. Getting a missed trip is obviously going to be frustrating (and … very problematic for people,” said Patrick Stewart, a consultant with the Independent Living Resource Centre.
Many cities already have partnerships between their accessible transit systems and vehicles for hire, so the concept has worked elsewhere, Stewart said.
However, he urged Transit Plus to also improve wait times for those who call in to book the accessible rides, since he’s heard complaints of some people waiting on hold for an hour or two to do so.
“People waste a tremendous amount of time on hold trying to get a Transit Plus operator to book their rides,” said Stewart.
Transit Plus is exploring ways to update its scheduling system, which would include adding online and app booking options, Platt said.
The pilot project is expected to end in December 2023, with its cost covered through the existing Transit Plus budget.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.