County council hears about Innisfil/Uber transit model
By Jenn Watt
Published Sept. 6, 2018
After hearing a presentation about the transit partnership between the Town of Innisfil and ride sharing company Uber, Haliburton County council passed a resolution to make contact with Uber and Innisfil for more information.
Council heard that Innisfil launched the partnership last year, after having no previous public transit system. The presentation, which was created by the Town of Innisfil, but presented by county planner Charlsey White, outlined the steps taken to make the idea a reality.
White said that Innisfil staff had brought the idea to their council about creating a “demand-based transit system.”
“Council was excited by this and ultimately approved $100,000 for 2017 and $125,000 for 2018 based on preliminary research which was suggesting this demand-based system would be considerably cheaper both in startup and overall costs,” she said.
They created an advisory committee that included residents and stakeholders and eventually approached Uber directly.
The fare is subsidized by the town, offering a flat fare to popular destinations. There is a $5 discount for all other rides beginning or ending in Innisfil, according to Innisfil Transit’s website.
The website reads: “To make the service as efficient as possible, Innisfil Transit was built on top of uberPOOL, our carpooling service. It matches riders going in the same direction so they can share a vehicle and the cost of the ride.”
According to statistics presented at the meeting, in 2017 between May 15 and Dec. 31, Innisfil Transit provided 26,688 trips and spent almost $150,000 subsidizing them. There were 3,493 users of the service during that time.
Rider surveys showed high satisfaction levels and steadily growing ridership.
“The benefit of starting out with this type of demand-based system is that it can be scaled and adapted to meet the demand, and changing demand, through the seasons,” White read from the presentation.
Innisfil and Haliburton County have significant differences in population and geography, however. Innisfil has much denser population, with 37,000 people spread over 262 square kilometres. Haliburton County has a population closer to 18,000 spread over 4,000 square kilometres.
Still, councillors commented there could be a version of the model that works in the Highlands.
Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said the presentation brought up questions around how to fund rides in such a large county and what to do if people started using the subsidized rides so frequently it became unaffordable. She said she liked the idea and wanted to hear more.
“I think this offers a little more flexibility from what we’ve been talking about,” she said.
Dysart et al Mayor Murray Fearrey was also positive about the idea.
“Haliburton County is unique and you just can’t have three or four buses running around,” he said, adding it would create jobs for drivers.
County councillors were told that this kind of partnership would qualify for gas tax funding, however, it wasn’t known how much Innisfil received. Staff were asked to find that figure.
White said the transportation task force has already been looking at a version of this model.
“[T]he Transportation Task Force looked at the Uber model, it was included in the business case to county council last year,” White wrote in response to questions from the Echo. “And from that business case is how council arrived where the consultant is working today, on a demand based booked shared ride. The systems/concept are very similar, and the consultant is creating how this can be rolled out in the county through their implementation plan.”
Her email said it wasn’t yet clear if Uber would work in Haliburton County, but perhaps elements of that model could be applied locally.Council passed a resolution for staff to contact Uber for more information.