Calgary's transit on-demand pilot project a success in new suburbs

The transit on-demand pilot project in the north end of Calgary, in the new communities of Carrington and Livingston, has been deemed a success.

Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek says she hopes city will look to expand the service

In north Calgary, on-demand transit users book rides using a cellphone app. (Helen Pike/CBC)

The transit on-demand pilot project in the north end of Calgary has been deemed a success, and some city councillors are hoping it will mean expanding the service.

The project kicked off in two new communities, Livingston and Carrington, in August 2019. It allows residents to use the free Calgary Transit On Demand app to book a van that picks them up from any location in those neighbourhoods and takes them to the North Pointe transit hub. 

A city report on the project showed the pilot surpassed its four main goals — for ridership, customer satisfaction, app downloads and cost-per-ride — during its first seven months.

"They were hoping that at least 200 people would download the app and we actually had more than 1,600 people download the app," Coun. Jyoti Gondek said Monday on the Calgary Eyeopener

She said an overwhelming majority of those people appear to have enjoyed their experience using the service.

"We were hoping for about an 85 per cent customer rating and we hit 97.2 per cent. So the indicators are really strong," the Ward 3 councillor said. 

$338,000 price tag

The one-year, $338,000 pilot project was approved by council in November 2018, with the expectation of a report in the second quarter of 2020. Last August, the service launched with a vendor called Ride Co.

Gondek said that when the pandemic began in March, ridership decreased across the board, so it was decided to focus the report on the seven months prior. 

"The data that we do have shows that people were using the app to call for service when they needed it and they were going between where they live and North Pointe hub or just north of there, probably to get groceries, and using it like any other transit service," she said.

Rides cost the same as any Calgary Transit fare — $3.40 per adult and $2.35 for youth six to 17 — with transfers given to riders switching to another bus. 

Coun. Jyoti Gondek says she hopes to see the service expanded. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Pilot will help city plan future transit projects

Gondek said the project was necessary because it is expensive to introduce a new bus route into a community that is in the midst of growing its population base. 

"The other thing is you're going to have to be somewhat intuitive and think about where people would want to get on and where they would want to get off," she said. 

"With on-demand service, it actually takes the intuition out of play and it gives you the data you need to set up a proper bus service as soon as the population wants it. So it's not a guessing game anymore."

Gondek said that after the success of this pilot, she hopes to see more transit on-demand services introduced in the city. 

"I really hope we do because it's this 'last mile concept' of how do you make sure that people have transit service and develop strong ridership habits before you can put a bus in, and I think this is a really good way to try it out," she said. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Gondek said the city has had to terminate a lot of routes just because everyone's in a crisis situation financially.

"So for the city, if we're looking to add service back on in places that we're a little bit hesitant about bus service, maybe this pilot is an idea," she said. 

Mobility corridor

The councillor said the service is already helping to fill that gap for people who live in parts of the city without regular transit services.

"We know that this pilot is working well, and even with Stage 1 of the Green Line, one of the most important things that happened is we have $100 million committed to creating what we've been calling a mobility corridor from the very edge of the city down into downtown," she said. 

"And that would allow a dedicated route for either transit on-demand or buses as soon as they're in place. Just getting us ready for that rail line as soon as that money becomes available."

The report on the pilot project will be presented to city council's transportation committee on Wednesday.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson


Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson


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