Sudbury

Sault Ste. Marie transit to experiment with ride and bicycle sharing

One northern Ontario city is looking at changing how people get around town. Sault Ste. Marie is considering adding a ride sharing and bicycle sharing services to its transit system. But as they start down this road, some city councillors are skeptical.

City council still needs to vote on proposed ride sharing and bike sharing programs

The City of Sault Ste. Marie is looking for a ride-sharing service that wants to become part of its public transit system.

One northern Ontario city is looking at changing how people get around town.

Sault Ste. Marie is considering adding a ride sharing service, like Uber, plus a bicycle sharing program, to its transit options.

But as they start down this road, some city councillors are skeptical. ​

"I'm having negative thoughts," councillor Frank Fata said Monday of the proposed six-month trial for a bicycle sharing program in Sault Ste. Marie. "This is something that should be done privately."

City council did vote to go ahead and put out that request for proposals, as it did with issuing a call for expressions of interest for a company to operate a ride sharing service as part of Sault city transit.  

But city councillor Matthew Shoemaker also thinks the public sector should leave that business completely up to companies like Uber and Lyft.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie is the first in northern Ontario to look at hosting a bicycle sharing program, at first as a six-month trial. (Christer Waara/CBC)

"Why are we offering this service and not simply amending our bylaw to allow this service to be offered privately?" Shoemaker asked.

"I guess I don't see why it's something we should offer as a transit service, when it's probably something a cab service could offer much more easily without much local investment."

Filling transportation gaps

University of Toronto economist Jonathan Hall has studied the impacts of ride sharing services on public transit systems.

He said they tend to be competitors in large cities like Toronto, but says in small cities like those in northern Ontario, ride sharing services can help fill in transportation gaps that are complicated and costly to cover with city buses.

"There's nothing worse than an empty bus riding down the road: tonnes of pollution, congestion costs and it's expensive," said Hall.

He said a city like Sault Ste. Marie or Sudbury could just run buses on main routes and leave the outlying areas to ride sharing services.

The Town of Innisfil, near Barrie, is subsidizing rides on Uber, instead of investing in a fleet of city buses. 

Belleville is trying an experiment where no buses run on fixed routes and they are all available for hire, much like giant taxi cabs. 

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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