WELLINGTON COUNTY – As the county’s ridesharing pilot project reaches new heights in usage, the County of Wellington will have to shell out more money to continue the service as is.
RIDE WELL is an on-demand ridesharing public transit service similar to Uber serving Wellington County running Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
First launched in October 2019, a county economic development report showed August 2023 had a record number of rides for the service with 817 total trips taken and an average of 37 rides per day. Comparatively, the service completed 70 rides in its first month of service.
A report by Dillon Consulting recommends the county continue to have RideCo operate it as the existing contract with RideCo for operating the service expires in December 2023.
This means RideCo would continue to provide all hardware, software, manage contracts of independent drivers and vehicles and perform logistic with the county providing call centre support and managing customer feedback.
Due to increased cost of fuel, maintenance, software fees and overall inflation, continuing with this service delivery will cost the county more with RideCo proposing its rate rise to $42 an hour from $34, representing a rise in gross annual costs of $76,000.
This would not require raising the fare for customers.
The consultant’s report recommends the county go with this option but also lays out some short-term recommendations that could be added to enhance the service.
One is to integrate more with and encourage usage of the Guelph-Owen Sound Transportation bus which makes five stops in Wellington County along the Highway 6 corridor — Mount Forest, Arthur, Fergus, Elora and Guelph.
The report noted this could benefit consumers who use that instead or in conjunction with RIDE WELL because of the lower cost of GOST fares and the county by reducing inefficient long-distance trips.
This could be done through better marketing of the GOST bus, including the bus’ route and schedule within the RIDE WELL app and website and guaranteeing arrival and departure time of five minutes prior to arrival and after departure from a GOST stop.
The report also recommends the county work with RideCo to partner with Uber or Lyft to fulfill trips that can not be completed by RIDE WELL due to unexpected driver absenteeism or a higher number of trips. Fares would remain at the RIDE WELL level in these circumstances.
For increased efficiency, another recommendation is the creation of travel zones rather than one large service area as is currently the case. In this scenario, vehicles would be assigned smaller geographic areas they wouldn’t leave.
“This has the overall effect of reducing non-service kilometres by keeping vehicles in a relatively small area, and increases the availability of service within the zone, thus improving service availability and reliability when residents want to travel,” the report stated. “The challenge with this model is that passengers travelling between two zones may have to transfer at a designated location in an effort to group trips and limit the number of single occupant long distance trips.”
With nearly half of all trips having an average distance of four kilometres, the report estimates this would introduce transfers to less than seven per cent of passengers.
The County of Wellington’s economic development committee will be presented the report by Dillon Consulting at a Tuesday morning meeting.