Belleville, Ontario project lets riders hail buses from an app

The Uber-like ride-hailing service will take over the city's night bus routes

a TTC bus

Starting Monday, residents of Belleville, Ontario will be able to request pick-up and drop-off points from city buses.

The City of Belleville partnered with Toronto-based Pantonium to make the city’s public transportation more like a ride-hailing service.

Belleville’s night bus service will stop operating on predefined routes on September 17th. Instead, riders can request pick-ups and drop-offs from an app, website or phone call. Pantonium will direct bus drivers using intelligent routing software.

The idea is to make things more efficient. Having a large, diesel bus driving a predefined route works well in a big city like Toronto. However, in smaller towns or even the suburban outskirts of Toronto, buses on predefined routes often run with few riders.

Belleville’s experiment will show if a ride-hailing strategy is more efficient than empty buses driving in circles.

Overall, it’s an intriguing experiment. In a similar test, Innisfil, Ontario, switched to Uber as its transportation system. While the town estimates it saved $8 million by subsidizing Uber rides instead of building transit infrastructure, Pantonium CEO Remi Desa thinks there are better ways than relying on Uber.

According to Desa, Uber prioritizes speed over efficiency. While some Uber services like Uber Express Pool can carry large groups of people, capacity doesn’t stack up to a bus.

If the project goes well, Belleville plans to rework their transit system to be more flexible and rely less on predefined routes. For example, the ride-hailing service could cover smaller service areas and bring people to predefined routes in larger service areas.

Source: Financial Post