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A New Fort Erie Transit System Is Coming: On-Demand Explained

Submitted by Christine Whelan

Aug 5th, 2021 VOL. 2 ISSUE 25

The Town of Fort Erie has been working on an overhaul of its Public Transit Services, changing the current fixed route service and to on-demand service, starting Fall 2021.

According to the Town of Fort Erie website, “On-Demand Transit is a shared-ride public transit service without a fixed schedule or route. The bus travel is optimized by computer software, and it is based upon rider trip requests. On-Demand Transit operates within the entire town, allowing riders to travel from point to point without transfers.

The On-demand Transit program will allow people to book a trip by either calling the customer service office or booking online through the app or website. Once live, payment will also be taken in cash on the vehicle or paid through the app.”

At the Council-in-Committee meeting on January 11, 2021, Council unanimously supported the change over and issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to find a capable provider for this service. The closing date for the RFP was April 1, 2021, with nine (9) proposals submitted.

On May 17, the Bridgeburg business on Jarvis Street, Regional Limousine, was chosen to be the new provider. Nick and Julie Brady, owners of the limo service, take on the public transit service in October.

As the time is getting closer, I decided to touch base with the couple to see how preparations are coming for this big undertaking. I caught up with Nick.

He assured me, “We are working hard to make sure there are no hiccups in the transition. We want to offer the best service.”

When asked what the community could expect in October, Brady replied, “On October 4th, the bus service is going to continue to run until October 16th, the same as it normally is. And then the on-demand will start running with it.”

He added, “We’re still working out the details with the Town.”

When discussing the concerns with community members who rely on the public transit system and have to adjust to this new way, Nick said that before this all takes place, they will have their staff on the bus, talking about the new transition, how the service is going to run, provide help in downloading the app and how to use the app to book a ride, as well as provide them with a number they can call in to book a ride with dispatch.

“The Town is working at their end to make sure the correct information gets out as well,” Nick stated.

“You can pre-book your pick-ups as well.” He used one customer as an example, “He said, ‘I want to get my bloodwork done at 9:30. After that, I usually go to Walmart. Then from Wal-Mart, I need a ride back home. How does that all happen?’ So, we can book for the bloodwork appointment, have a vehicle come back for about 10:00, go to Walmart, then 10:30-11:00, back for a pickup and home. We can schedule that with one call.”

Explaining further, “And this can be done for the entire week if needed. Someone can call up and say they work every day this week at 2:30 and needs to be picked up and dropped off accordingly.”

The fee will not go up. It will still be $3.00 per ride.

Minivans

“We have four minivans that will be en route all the time. Two will be on standby for back-up as needed.”

There will be certain designations these vehicles will be stationed. There will still be certain designated stops at designated times. But for the most part, it will be on-demand.

Nick continued, “The hub at the Town of Fort Erie is still going to be a designated pick-up time because the Niagara Regional Bus comes in there. Walmart will still be a designated pick-up location.”

The Drivers

When asked if the current drivers have been invited to be a part of the change, “This is our full intention. We have been in contact with all nine bus drivers. They are a great group of people. We do have a meeting set up in August to discuss all the changes and review any issues they see. We have to go through the regular hiring process, background checks, and clean driving records, but as long as that all clears — which I’m sure it would be — then our full intention is to take on those same drivers.”

This, he added, was preferred and a part of the proposal, “They know the customers. They know the routes. They are the best people out there for the job.”

When asked if this is a pioneer project in the area, “We’ve done a little bit of on-demand. But this is a much larger scale with different automated software, more dispatcher staff.”

When asked if there are any other companies around who offer on-demand, “Via offers a similar service. They cover Niagara-on-the-Lake and Pelham.”

Nick wrapped up our conversation with, “This will definitely be good for the students and for those who are working and use the public system.”

Photos provided by Nick and Julie Brady

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