Saint John considers making lesser-used bus routes on-demand by app or phone

·3 min read
Some Saint John buses follow routes with few passengers, city says. (Julia Wright/CBC  - image credit)
Some Saint John buses follow routes with few passengers, city says. (Julia Wright/CBC - image credit)

It's like Uber for buses, but the bus would go from stop to stop instead of from door to door.

That's one part of the the City of Saint John's proposed transit changes meant to make buses more efficient and convenient.

The city is considering transit changes that will see main routes staying pretty much the same, but would make the remaining buses on demand.

People would be able to use an app or call to order a bus to the stop nearest them.

Trying to use buses better

That bus can take them to either the stop nearest to their destination, or connect them with one of the main routes that go to the most frequented places.

"We [would] not longer have a bus driving on a route where there's nobody waiting," Saint John's director of transit Ian Fogan told city council this week. "It cuts out that waste."

The app would also help people plan their trips and provide timelines for people trying to get to appointments.

The top eight routes, including routes 1, 3 9 and 15, account for 75 per cent of the ridership. In the plan, those routes would remain the same and could even have more frequent stops.

The next six routes serve 20 per cent of ridership. The current plan says those can be on-demand during off-peak hours, arriving within 30 minutes.

The bottom six serve just six per cent of all riders, Fogan said. Those would be transformed to entirely on-demand, meaning the stops would remain but residents would have to call for one or order on online or on an app.

Fogan said this plan also considers an overhaul of bus stop locations, considering "quality over quantity." He said the details for this have not been finalized.

Submitted by City of Saint John
Submitted by City of Saint John

While their stop frequency is different, all of these routes are currently served by 40-foot buses. This is not efficient and bad for the environment, Fogan said.

"The current service is not sustainable," he said.

For people on those bottom routes to make it to an appointment, they often have to be too early or too late, and are unable to tailor their bus ride to their needs. The on-demand option would correct this problem, Fogan said.

"With the transit on demand, if my wait time used to be an hour in between when a bus would come, I can now call for a bus when I need it, I don't have to wait that hour interval."

Fogan said those less-frequented stops could be served by smaller buses.

Could start this summer

Fogan said 20 other municipalities in Canada have on-demand-style transportation systems.

He said the completed plan is expected in April, and if it passes at council, the plan could start being implemented in the summer. The transit commission endorsed this plan.

Coun. Joanna Killen asked how people's feedback could be collected if they have a problem with the bus stop redesign.

Fogan said the city will take into account where people are living and the location of the people who may have those concerns. He said some bus stops are right next to each other, and it's that kind of redundancy that's being addressed.

Coun. Paula Radwan asked if the planers are considering changing some routes altogether. Fogan said yes, but the major stops will remain the same.

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