A new kind of bus service continues to wend its way to Breslau, though Grand River Transit has yet to finalize a start date.
The parameters of the on-demand system are coming together, however. Using what the region calls the GRT Flex app, riders will book trips on route 79 rather than waiting for a scheduled bus to roll by predetermined stops. Instead, a bus will be available on demand nine hours per day during the workweek, with service between 6 and 10 a.m., 2 and 6 p.m. and 10:45-11:45 p.m.
The eight-month pilot project could be rolling by September. The $175,000 in funding for the project is coming from Metrolinx, the provincial Crown agency.
The goal is to gauge demand. The limited hours were a “compromise” to fit with the budget allotted for the service, covering off peak demand times and making some concessions for employers offering shift work, particularly Conestoga Meat Packers (CMP).
There will be no preset routes and few formal stops, the region’s Chantelle Thompson told Woolwich councillors meeting Monday night. There will be signed stops at the Region of Waterloo International Airport, the Breslau Community Centre, CMP and Woodland Christian High School.
Most of the stops will be virtual, with people using the app given walking directions to where they can meet the bus, she explained.
Route 79 will connect with the rest of the GRT system at Victoria Street and Lackner Boulevard in Kitchener.
Coun. Larry Shantz inquired about projected ridership numbers, noting the public-input process undertaken by GRT.
Supervisor of transit development Blair Allen answered that there’s been “quite a bit of feedback,” particularly from people trying to get to work in Breslau, as well as students who have summer jobs in the village.
“Like many of these types of areas, the numbers … we don’t anticipate at the start, at first, to be huge numbers,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons to use flex services, to be able to serve a larger area with less cost and a more flexible type of service.”
While GRT doesn’t have estimates on ridership, the initial target is five riders per hour, said Allen.
“It doesn’t exude a lot of confidence when that question can’t be answered,” suggested Coun. Patrick Merlihan, asking what it would take for the route to be discontinued after the pilot project if ridership is that low.
Both Shantz and Merlihan noted Conestoga Meat Packers has been a big driver of extending bus service to Breslau, a way to get its employees to and from their homes in Kitchener-Waterloo. The company, however, was unable to sustain financially a shuttle bus service of its own, Merlihan said.
“This is more than that single point of demand,” said Allen of the expanded, community-wide bus service proposed by GRT.
When it rolls out, the service will be free for a month, then subject to regular GRT fares, which will increase to $3.50 as of July 1. The agency last week announced it was increasing fees by an average of two per cent to cover the increased costs of operating transit and planned service improvements. Monthly pass prices ($90) will not increase.