Should Calgary Transit Think Outside the Bus?

As a result of digging into the Calgary Transit’s “Electronic Fare Saga,” I also learned a whole lot more about the other issues that Calgarians and Calgary Transit are facing in a March 2016 report "Calgary Transit Service Delivery Goal Trends and Challenges."

As shown on Figure 1, in 2015 Base service is provided to about 60.4% of Calgary residences and 62.7% of jobs (business addresses). Areas that do not receive a Base level of service contain about 229,000 residents (18% of city population) and 158,000 jobs (18% of Calgary’s total employment) primarily in the developed communities in the northwest, west, southwest and southeast areas where base service levels are not provided. Areas with no transit service tend to be located in the newer areas in the north, northeast, southeast, particularly developing employment areas plus pockets scattered throughout the developed area of city. Some of these pockets are isolated and have sparse developments that are not feasible to serve. (City of Calgary, Transit Service Delivery Goals, Trends and Challenges, March 2016)

As shown on Figure 1, in 2015 Base service is provided to about 60.4% of Calgary residences and 62.7% of jobs (business addresses). Areas that do not receive a Base level of service contain about 229,000 residents (18% of city population) and 158,000 jobs (18% of Calgary’s total employment) primarily in the developed communities in the northwest, west, southwest and southeast areas where base service levels are not provided. Areas with no transit service tend to be located in the newer areas in the north, northeast, southeast, particularly developing employment areas plus pockets scattered throughout the developed area of city. Some of these pockets are isolated and have sparse developments that are not feasible to serve. (City of Calgary, Transit Service Delivery Goals, Trends and Challenges, March 2016)

Base service is a range of transit services (feeder, mainline and cross-town routes) providing service, within 400 metres of 95% of residents and jobs, at least every 30 minutes. In 2015, base service is provided to only about 60.4% of Calgary residences and 62.7% of businesses. 

I was surprised to learn there are thousands of households in 12 different Calgary communities  that no have no service within 5 kilometers and probably won’t have for a few years.

I can understand that new communities might have to wait for schools, libraries and recreation centers, but I have to wonder why the City would approve the development of a new community if they know they don’t have the money to provide reasonable transit service.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that most bus routes after 9 pm operate at less than 20% capacity (i.e. less than 12 people per bus). My observations over the years have found that in off peak times it is more like 5 or 6.

For a long time I have wondered if there isn’t a better way to provide transit service on low ridership routes.  What if taxis, Uber drivers and/or car2go vehicles waiting at the LRT Stations were somehow included in the transit fare so C-Train riders could just hop in and get home rather than waiting for a bus that comes every 30 minutes?

I then started thinking of lots of questions?

Would it be more cost effective for the city to just tendered out transit service to taxis, Uber or car2go from C-Trains Stations late at night? 

Would it make sense to replace some low occupancy bus routes with taxis and Uber service to the nearest C-Train Station at night?   

Would it be cost effective to tender out transit service to new communities to taxis and Uber, while a community grows in size to warrant transit service?

Would the Taxi/Uber option be cost effective on low ridership routes on the weekends?

Benefits

I hazard a guess to say transit users would love the door-to-door, on-demand service at night, especially in the winter. Waiting in the dark and cold is no fun.

Increased C-Train ridership at night as a result of Calgarians being picked up at home and driven to the closest C Train or picked up at the LRT Station and driven home could result in increased train service, yielding a win-win situation.

As well, it would be more environmentally friendly as buses wouldn’t be driving around empty and taxis and Uber drivers would be busy driving people, rather than sitting idling polluting the air while waiting for a fare.

Taxi drivers get a new client base, maybe making up for the Uber competition.

There could also be an increase in transit use by car owners with the added comfort and convenience of door-to-door on-demand service. Fewer cars on the road would be a good thing.

The records of the taxi and Uber drivers would provide the City with valuable information for future transit planning.

And yes, it should save the taxpayer money.

Research Says…..

In fact Miami, Denver, Quebec City and Phoenix already have partnerships with private companies (Uber, Lyft) to transport customers to and from transit services in low ridership areas or during times of low ridership (evenings & weekends).

Perhaps a pilot project in Calgary is warranted based on the lessons learned from these other cities.  

Link: First Mile/Last Mile Programs

Last Word

Perhaps it is time to think outside the bus.

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