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Sunday-night bus experiment expected to save $22,000 a year

Instead of fixed routes, the buses will travel from one point to another, directed by an Uber-like phone app
City councillors approved purchase of Via Mobility's on-demand phone-app technology for a 12-month trial

City Council is pressing forward with plans for a one-year experiment with on-demand Sunday-evening bus service.

Starting in August or September, Sault Transit will start running seven buses instead of the usual nine on Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Instead of criss-crossing the city on fixed routes, the buses will travel from one point to another, directed by an Uber-like phone app.

"This is traditionally a period of time where ridership is low, averaging 445 passengers per evening, and the majority of bus stops are not being utilized," said Tim Gowans, the city's purchasing manager.

"Passengers could use an app, or call in to book a ride as needed," Gowans said in a report to Mayor Provenzano and city councillors.

Councillors voted tonight to spend $28,000 on a 12-month pilot project using routing technology offered by Via Mobility LLC of New York.

Via Mobility's proposal was one of seven received by the city:

  • Driverseat Sault Ste. Marie, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
  • Pantonium, Inc., Toronto, Ontario
  • RideCo Inc., Waterloo, Ontario
  • Routematch Software, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia
  • Spare Labs Inc., Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Via Mobility LLC, New York, New York
  • Xongolab Technologies LLP, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

A city committee ranked the proposals using an evaluation matrix, interviews and product demonstrations, awarding Via Mobility the highest score.

"The Via Group is the world's leading developer and operator of fully dynamic on-demand transit systems," said Gowans.

"Via has grown from a small share-ride operator in New York City into a world leader in on-demand transit and a global company that provides over two million rides per month."

"Via has over 60 partnerships in 16 countries. Via has consumer-facing services in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, Amsterdam, London and Milton Keynes. To date they have provided more than 50 million rides," says Gowans.

He projects savings of $22,000 over the one-year experiment.

"If demand or service requirements support that an additional bus is required, the incremental cost would be accommodated through operations and/or offset in portion by increased fare revenue," Gowans said.

The city's one-year agreement with Via Mobility can be extended up to three additional years if both sides are agreeable.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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