A Yorkton, Sask., web developer has created a ridesharing website to help facilitate travel when the Saskatchewan Transportation Company stops running after May 31.
The provincial government announced it was winding down the 70-year-old bus service as part of its March 22 budget.
The decision is expected to save the heavily indebted provincial government roughly $17 million per year, according to budget estimates.
But the decision has raised concerns that losing the service will isolate seniors, rural residents and people who need to travel for medical care. Flash mobs and rallies opposing the cuts have been held in Regina and Saskatoon.
To help fill the gap, Dick DeRyk from UncommonSense Business Solutions in Yorkton has created a website to facilitate ridesharing across Saskatchewan.
He said the site will allow people to submit offers to rideshare, or express interest if they need to travel.
"When I ride STC, I see a lot of people who obviously rely on the bus service and who may not themselves be able to drive, or who have no one to provide a ride," DeRyk said.
"When the bus service stops, they could be hard‐pressed to get to the larger cities for medical appointments, which seems to be a common purpose for many of their travels."
Not just for STC bus routes
Earlier this month, the Highway Traffic Board confirmed the Carpe Diem Limo Company had applied to take over STC bus routes.
DeRyk said he was aware the bus routes might be taken over by another company.
"Even if there's other companies looking at taking over the STC bus routes at the end of May, any of the smaller towns that feed into the larger centres might still be without a way to get in to catch a bus," he said.
Reducing safety risks
DeRyk said attempts will be made to screen the ridesharing service's listings to make it safer for users. Anyone who uses the website will also have to provide a full name.
He acknowledged there were risks associated with connecting with strangers online but said there were measures people could take to reduce those risks.
DeRyk suggested people should make sure somebody knows who they are travelling with and ask for identification.
"That's up to those people to look after," he said.
"We basically put them in touch with each other and if they are comfortable with each other and meet each other prior to [the trip] and make their arrangements, and hopefully everything will turn out OK."
The website at SaskRideShare.ca will be free for users and funded by a combination of advertising and crowdfunding through GoFundMe, said DeRyk.