Spark

Canadian cities are letting riders order buses from their phones

Bus-on-demand pilot projects are the latest in public transit.

Free from the strictures of the posted schedules, buses on-demand come to you.

A man enters public bus in Helsinki, Finland, May 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Ints Kalnins)
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In September, the city of Belleville in south-eastern Ontario began a program that allows transit passengers to request busses via an app outside of their regular, scheduled routes.  A similar program is being considered for some areas in Calgary.

Sampo Hietanen is the founder and CEO of MaaS Global. (Twitter)

The programs fall under the category of "mobility as a service", a concept started by MaaS Global founder and CEO Sampo Hietanen. 

We dare to ask the question, 'What would it take for you to give up your car?'" Hietanen said, speaking to Spark host Nora Young. "And the answer is always the same: If someone could promise that you can really go anywhere at any time."

Hietanen's company allows its users to book trips across a variety of modes of transportation, including bikes, cars, trains, and (eventually) planes. He also worked on a bus-on-demand project, similar to the program in Belleville, in his hometown of Helsinki.

According to Hietanen, one of the key things that distinguishes where these programs succeed and where they fail is how much of the overall transit they cover. "It has to be extremely convenient and extremely easy to use," he said. If transit riders only use the service for a small slice of their trips, then it wont reach enough users to support the system. 

"If you dare to set...the bar high enough so that it has to be as good as owning a car, then it has to be really smooth.