TTC to explore new ride-sharing service proposed by Denzil Minnan-Wong

The TTC board is set to discuss an "on demand ride-sharing service." proposed by Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who says it could be an attractive alternative.

TTC says service could be ‘attractive alternative’ to private vehicles

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong wants the TTC to explore proposals for an "on-demand ride-sharing service" as a way to cover under-served areas. The transit system's board will discuss the idea at its Wednesday meeting. (John Rieti/CBC)

Uber could soon be facing a new but familiar competitor in the ride-sharing industry.

The TTC board is set to discuss the creation of an "on-demand ride-sharing service" at its Wednesday meeting. It's part of a larger report on the implications of "microtransit" on the TTC.

Commonly known as ride-sharing, microtransit services use private vehicles to carry multiple passengers along fixed or variable routes.

Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the councillor for Ward 34, Don Valley East, proposed the idea to the board. He envisions a fleet of vehicles serving TTC riders in low-density and industrial areas.

"We have many bus routes where we have these big 40-foot buses that are virtually empty spewing fuel out their tailpipe, We could have smaller vehicles servicing under-serviced areas." Minnan-Wong said.

"This is an opportunity, in terms of innovation, to be more nimble and provide better alternatives," he said, adding that public transit agencies in New York, Boston and San Francisco have already introduced similar microtransit systems.

The TTC says ride-sharing services could complement its traditional network in areas where it doesn't make sense to operate large transit vehicles like streetcars. (J.P. Moczulski/Canadian Press)

The report describes ride-sharing services as an attractive alternative to private automobiles. It says they would be especially effective in the "first mile" and "last mile" of commutes, where riders may not have access to frequent or nearby transit service.

"There are some areas of the city that might not be entirely suitable for big vehicles or the kind of mass transit that companies like the TTC provide," said Chris Upfold, the TTC's deputy CEO and chief customer officer.

He said those areas could be better-served by a dedicated ride-sharing company.

"Is there somewhere that we can partner with another organization, another company, that can provide either a higher level of service or better service or could do it at a better value?" Upfold said.

TTC riders respond

Transit riders say they'd be happy to see the TTC provide more options for getting around.

"There are just all sorts of places you can't get to easily," said Carolyn Smith at a downtown streetcar stop. "If it was integrated with the major routes, I think it would be really helpful."

"It seems like it would be valuable, I imagine certain neighbourhoods would benefit from it more than others," said Larry Williamson.

Others are waiting to see if the service can offer competitive prices.

"I can certainly expect it to be more than, you know, three bucks for a ride downtown," said Elizabeth Tapley, who uses the UberPOOL ride-sharing service. "But if it's going to be reasonable, then for sure."

Next steps

If the recommendations are approved, Minnan-Wong wants the TTC to begin exploring possible partners for a pilot project and eventually a pricing model.

"We have to find out if there's anyone out there who actually wants to provide the service," he said.

But the report also cautions that putting more ride-sharing services on the road could increase congestion, and if they expanded to include larger vehicles, ride-sharing could cut into TTC ridership and revenue.