Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia eyes ride sharing to ease rural transportation woes

The Nova Scotia government is hoping a modern ride-sharing program will help ease the struggle of people who have no suitable transportation in rural parts of the province.

Province plans to put $250K into ride-sharing projects in up to 3 rural areas

The province says it's looking to target mid-size rural communities with populations of between 15,000 and 40,000 people. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia government is hoping a modern ride-sharing program will help ease the struggle of people who have no suitable transportation in rural parts of the province.

It has issued a request for information for what it calls "Rural Ride Share Field Tests." Energy Minister Derek Mombourquette said he's even open to the idea of Uber moving into rural parts of the province.

"There's no one solution to this," he said. "We may get requests from Uber or Lyft. We may have proposals for some kind of carpooling. The first important step is to go out there and see who would be interested in helping government and community address this."

The request from the province states the goal is to "deploy permanent on-demand mobility technology services within mid-sized rural communities with populations between 15,000 to 40,000 residents."

The locations have and community partners have not been decided.

Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette says he's open to companies such as Uber providing the service. (CBC)

Mombourquette said it may include parts of Cape Breton, Guysborough County or the Annapolis Valley. The first step, he said, is simply to get an idea of what private organizations are interested and what solutions they can come up with.

He said the province has $250,000 to help pay for three separate rural ride share pilot projects.

According to the tender, "field tests will be deployed in one to three rural communities in Nova Scotia over a six-month period to assess the value."

The plan is to set up the pilot projects in such a way to service a 50-kilometre radius around a rural community, commercial district or corporate employer. It must also be accessible online or via a smartphone.

The tender said the service must be "efficient" and emphasizes pooling rides to reduce the number of single-person rides.

Mombourquette said the ideas phase will be followed by community consultation. After that, the projects and communities will be selected.

'Transportation is a real barrier,' says rural N.S. resident

Nancy O'Regan, who has lived in Guysborough County since she was a teenager, said her region is long overdue for any kind of public transportation solution that doesn't rely solely on volunteers.

"I think the need is growing here," she said. "We have an aging population and a number of communities that are quite isolated. Transportation is a real barrier. It's a barrier to health care and employment, and we've never been able to come up with a reasonable solution."

In the early 2000s, Guysborough County tested a volunteer-based dial-a-ride model that matched drivers with customers.

January deadline

"It was run by volunteers, but it's labour intensive. It requires consistent funding," O'Regan said. "I think anything that uses ride sharing, volunteer rides or people who are able to communicate with others about meeting transportation needs more collectively would be a great option."

The province is open to soliciting information on various ride share configurations including, but not limited to:

  • Car sharing.
  • Ride hailing.
  • Ride sharing.
  • Vanpooling.
  • Carpooling.
  • Trip planning aggregators.
  • Shuttle transit services.

The submission deadline is Jan. 31, 2020.

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About the Author

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.

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