Are ride-sharing apps in the future of rural transportation?

Written by  Craig Bakay & Jeff Green Wednesday, 15 March 2017 11:45
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In his verbal report to Council about this year’s Good Roads convention in Toronto, South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal touched on two aspects that caught his attention — waste management information and the idea of incorporating ride-sharing apps such as Uber into the county transportation system.

“There have been 4,000 studies on waste and recycling and they say they don’t have any hard data,” Vandewal said.

But he was more optimistic about the potential part ride-sharing might play in rural transportation systems.

After attending a seminar featuring Uber Canada’s public policy manager Chris Schafer, Vandewal came out with a feeling there may be a part for ride-sharing apps to play in rural Ontario.

“It could be huge for rural,” Vandewal said. “How simple it could be.

“I don’t know that it would work but I thought maybe it made sense and it could broaden our transportation system.”

Uber already operates in Ottawa and Kingston. There is also a system in place in Summit New Jersey whereby the municipality subsidizes from its transit hub in a ‘first-mile/last-mile’ concept that frees up parking spots.

Uber also has public transit agreements with San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Alamonte Springs, Florida, has “totally replaced its public transportation with subsidized Uber rides” according to The Verge website.
“I’m not in favour of a county-wide transportation system - yet,” said Vandewal. “But we looked at Ottawa and systems where people ride the bus to the end of the line and have Uber meet them there to take them the rest of the way.

“We do have some land north of Kingston that could be a potential hub if Kingston would be open to sending a bus out there.

“There could be municipal opportunities in the sharing economy.”

One issue though, as always, is cost.

For example, from Uber’s Kingston website puts the price of a ride from Glenburnie to KGH at “$21-$27.”

Frontenac Transportation Service (FTS) has been providing rides to medical appointments and other services for residents of Frontenac County for a number of years. The not-for-profit service, which is operated by Northern and Southern Frontenac Community Services to serve their own clients and others, has recently been looking at expanding its services using a ride sharing model.

Frontenac County provides $90,000 in annual funding support to FTS to help cover administrative costs and to subsidize medical rides for residents in need.

Gail Young, who manages FTS, said a recent ride from the Perth Road area to a chiropractor on Princess Street cost $11, which was further reduced with a subsidy from South Frontenac Community Services. Young said that using services like Uber may be something for the future, but for now, FTS is looking at increasing ride-sharing and continuing with volunteer drivers.

“It’s important for us to look at different models, and the professional driver option may work better in the south,” she said. “(But) we use volunteer drivers which means much different insurance rates and with ride-sharing, that is marrying up people who are going to the same place, the costs can be further reduced.”

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