RIDE WELL partners with Uber to improve service

WELLINGTON COUNTY –Wellington County is turning to a partnership with Uber to help make its RIDE WELL program more efficient.

Uber integration and interactive voice response (IVR) are two new enhancements soon to be implemented in the county's RIDE WELL program.

While a staff report says IVR won't significantly change how the service operates, staff believe it will provide a quicker method of obtaining information for passengers and "will especially" serve those without access to the RIDE WELL app who rely solely on phone support.

Approved during a Wellington County economic development committee meeting Tuesday morning, staff said Uber integration and interactive voice response are ideal short-term ways to optimize RIDE WELL service as county council debates whether and how to continue RIDE WELL service before the pilot ends next March.

Two of the several recommendations presented by Dillon Consulting during a meeting last month, committee chair county Coun. Jeff Duncan said a dedicated RIDE WELL workshop is planned for county council in May to decide whether to implement long-term enhancements like a zone model and additional hours.

According to the report, increasing demand for the RIDE WELL service has created ongoing capacity constraints and Uber integration should improve service reliability and reduce passenger wait times by allowing staff to deploy an Uber during abandoned rides.

Currently, when a ride is abandoned, county staff deploy a taxi to the passenger but as the process can be time-consuming and is not always successful, this can lead to canceled rides.

Staff said Uber integration will also open up more booking opportunities for passengers who require the service as available Uber rides will be viewable and bookable on the RIDE WELL app. The passenger is required to pay the full Uber fare even when booking a ride through the RIDE WELL app.

Estimated to cost $500, IVR will allow passengers to call a phone number and receive automated information about their scheduled ride.

As the additional hours needed to implement the zone model were approved in the 2024 budget to start July 1, Duncan said workshop discussions will also involve whether to push the start date up to June 1.

Planned for May 16, Duncan said the workshop is for county council to discuss the future vision of rural transportation in Wellington County.

The RIDE WELL pilot and funding finishes in March 2025.

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com