Ontario town partners with Uber to deal with transit demand

This photo shows the Uber application being used on an iPhone at Vancouver’s international airport. Photo from CP.

Living without a car in a small town can be a challenge, especially when public transit is scarce, but residents of Innisfil, Ont., are bridging the gap by utilizing a popular ride-hailing service.

Thanks to a new partnership, residents of this community located roughly 105 kilometres north of Toronto will be eligible for discounted Uber fares to certain locations in town, according to the Toronto Star. The passenger will be responsible for paying a base fare and the municipality will cover the balance.

The partnership was developed after the town decided establishing a single bus route was not feasible at a price tag of $270,000 a year. Instead, the municipality will subsidize the Uber program with $100,000 this year and $125,000 in 2018.

“Council was really being pressured to bring transit to the town of Innisfil,” Mayor Gord Wauchope told the Toronto Star. “You can’t have taxpayers pay for a transit system which they cannot use. And this was a transit system that people can get from anywhere in the town of Innisfil, and use it for a reasonable price.”

The partnership will also provide necessary data for building transit routes in the future as the city of 36,000 people grows.

“The feasibility study was great, but with Uber, it’s going to show us exactly where people want to go,” Paul Pentikainen, Innisfil senior policy planner, explained to the Toronto Star. “The town has grown and we need to have transit options,” he said.

“There is a clear demand for this.”

Not everyone is on board

A spokeswoman for Uber Canada told the newspaper that the company is excited about the partnership and growing their client base.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Innisfil for Canada’s first partnership of this kind and look forward to continued dialogue with other jurisdictions and transit authorities across Canada to explore similar partnerships,” said Uber’s Susie Heath.

But not everyone is excited about the new mixed transit program the town has adopted.

“It has been really frustrating,” Global Taxi owner Manjot Saini admitted to the Toronto Star. “To be honest, we’re thinking about slowly taking our cabs out, one by one. I can’t compete with Uber and still pay my fees to the town.”

Despite some opposition, the service will launch on May 1 and there are already base fares established for certain “hubs” in the town. A trip to the town hall or recreation centre will cost $3 per person, according to the Star, while a trip to the Barrie Go Station or the Highway 400 carpool lot will have a flat fee of $5.

Residents will also be able to apply a $5 discount to any trip booked from Innisfil.