Ottawa

Online booking coming to Para Transpo by end of 2020

After years of lobbying, Para Transpo customers may finally be able to book their trips online by the end of  2020, Ottawa's transit commission heard Wednesday. 

Still no firm date for long-awaited booking system

Online booking could be available for Para Transpo users by the end of next year, Ottawa's transit commission heard Wednesday. (Kate Porter/CBC)

After years of lobbying, Para Transpo customers may finally be able to book their trips online by the end of  2020, Ottawa's transit commission heard Wednesday. 

Para Transpo users attending Wednesday's meeting generally welcomed the $1.5-million plan to replace the telephone-only booking system, but some felt it falls short.

"I'm glad it's coming, but we have to have firm dates," said John Redins, an accessible transit advocate.

"We have 3.5 million reasons why it should have been done right away, and it wasn't done," he said, referring to the number of Para Transpo rides per year.

John Redins, a public transit advocate and Para Transpo user, says he'd like a more specific delivery date. (City of Ottawa)

While other cities moved to online booking systems years ago, Para Transpo users have had to put up with an inefficient phone system that sometimes takes them hours to book a trip

Some councillors also urged staff to come up with a firm date for implementation, and said having such a target would hold the city accountable.

"You need to have a date that you're working towards," said Coun. Shawn Menard.

However, Coun. Allan Hubley, who chairs the transit commission, said that he was "uncomfortable" setting a deadline right now because he'd like to hear back from a working group made up of transit commissioners and customers on "what the design of the final application looks like."

Interim booking system

Starting next month, Para Transpo will offer a customer test group a web-based form for booking rides. However, employees will have to physically enter the information into the existing booking system.

Beginning early next year, that web-based option will be extended to all customers.

There's still no Presto card option for Para Transpo customers.

Para Transpo customers won't be getting Presto cards any time soon, however.

Redins pointed out that Para Transpo has its customers Presto service for years, but that hasn't materialized. According to OC Transpo boss John Manconi, the provincial agency Metrolinx, which runs the Presto system, "did not deliver."

Instead, Manconi said Para Transpo needs "a made-in-Ottawa solution."

Sticking with software company

OC Transpo will be developing the online booking with the company Trapeze, which has provided Para Transpo with software for the last 20 years. Trapeze already provides an online service for transit agencies in other cities.

The city did not run a competition for the new booking service, noted transit commissioner Anthony Carricato on Wednesday.

Pat Scrimgeour, OC Transpo's director of transit systems, replied that issuing a request for proposals could delay the implementation from three to five years.

"Given that Para Transpo's main booking, scheduling, vehicle tracking and electronic fare payment systems use Trapeze software, and given that system integration is a requirement, staff are working with the same supplier to develop the online services module," according to the city report on plan.

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