Safe Public Transit For Vulnerable Riders With On Demand Transportation

Safe Public Transit For Vulnerable Riders With On Demand Transportation

A study published in 2017 by the Council of Canadian Academies pointed to the mobility needs of our fastest-growing demographic – older adults – and prompted the adoption of inclusivity and technology at the design core of transit systems.

“Older adults are the fastest-growing demographic in Canada, and as this group continues to grow, so too does the demand for an inclusive transportation system. This is an opportune time to look at how Canada can develop such a system, given that the population is ageing quickly, with more approaching that point in our lives every day. Looking at ongoing changes to transportation and accessibility governance is a smart start. An inclusive transportation system would allow for the seamless movement of all Canadians with many potential benefits from enhancing individual well-being to promoting social equity and social inclusion.”

In addition, a 2019 study that focused on the premise of older adults’ use of Autonomous Vehicles as an alternative to current transportation systems found that the idea of on-demand use of transportation services could be of preference due to the numerous barriers found in conventional systems.

Public transport must indeed evolve parallel to the needs of their users. During this process, it should evaluate how to address budgetary constraints and the matters of efficiency, flexibility, scalability, and sustainability.  There has been a  surge of SaaS, MaaS, and on-demand technology platforms entering the transportation market as a solution aimed to address these challenges. Highly customizable, they provide a wide degree of latitude to deploy a transit fleet in various configurations.

Accessible mobility as a critical component of contemporary urban development has in on-demand platforms a strong ally. In PWT’s experience, on-demand platforms have allowed us to approach transit service coverage with many options that help address growth and consider accessibility for vulnerable riders such as older adults, younger riders, and disabled or mobility challenged.


Customizing loading times for user groups based on their mobility needs:

Accommodating load/unload times by user-group level enhances user experience and automates exceptions without interfering with key service delivery metrics such as on-time performance.


Safelisting stops to guarantee infrastructure accessibility:

Whether virtual or physical stop locations, the system allows for categorization to ensure users’ pickup or drop-off location, which happens based on their mobility needs. i.e. wheelchair accessible, ramps, deaf/blind-accessible, child friendly, etc.


Virtual stop set up:

During the system design phase, on-demand technology can re-purpose the existing transit infrastructure and add “virtual stops.” These virtual locations can be added to multiply the system’s infrastructure permanently or during certain times to allow for more efficient and safer stop locations during high-traffic times in areas such as schools, concert/sporting venues, festivals, or conventions.


Booking reminders:

on-demand systems can provide records of booking confirmations, trip alerts and real-time notifications to every user and every trip. Upcoming trip alerts via SMS are beneficial for older adults and younger riders that may lose track of time.


Access to a dedicated on-demand call center:

Usually, an oversight aspect of implementing on-demand transit is the enhancement of the customer service delivery, which creates robust support channels to assist those who are not familiar with technology, lack the resources to own smart devices, or who are too young to own one.


Advance booking:

Trips can be booked in advance to ensure the operator and vehicle performing the trip are available and match the accessibility requirements of the user. i.e. wheelchair accessible, walkers, scooters or other mobility devices, including bicycles


Customizable or recurrent payment by fare type:

students, seniors, disabled users, veterans or general users can set up recurrent payments or default fare payments in advance – providing the benefit of not having to worry about producing cash, paper tickets, or monthly passes at the time of boarding.


Customizable special instructions:

the ability to add personalized notes for the driver is a feature that is both user and driver-focused. It gives the user the option to provide various details, such as pickup specifications, exact location in largely populated areas, back alley pickup, a child’s name when travelling alone from a parent’s account, etc.

At PWT, we have longstanding experience with on-demand transportation, not only by our strategic partnerships with technology providers but also operationally by participating in the design, implementation, and operation of several on-demand transit services across Canada.  In addition to the above, there are several other reasons to contract on demand your transit service with PWT.


If you are interested in learning more about on-demand, get in touch with us! We will provide you with customized plans to integrate demand-based transportation solutions for your community or business:

5 Key Reasons to Contract On-Demand

5 Key Reasons to Contract On-Demand

On-demand transportation continues to grow in interest, awareness, and real-world applications across Canada. Many communities, transit agencies, and other entities are evaluating on-demand as a viable transportation option and service delivery framework to extract maximum possible value. For many, it comes down to deciding to operate on-demand in-house or engaging a contracted operator. Here are five key reasons why Contracted On-Demand may be the best solution available:


Flexibility + Speed

Knowledgeable on-demand transportation providers can utilize their expertise and prior experience to make swift decisions related to fleet size and specs, technology and app providers, communications planning, staff training, and much more, depending on the specific project requirements and objectives. In addition, contractors are not subject to the same procurement rules as municipalities or other publicly-funded agencies, facilitating quick procurement of goods and services necessary to launch an on-demand service. PWT has implemented on-demand transportation services for customers in a matter of several weeks and has taken delivery of new vehicles built especially for an on-demand service or client in as fast as five months from the initial contract award.


Capital Investment

In many cases, our clients and potential clients are unsure of the long-term viability of on-demand and wade into this model by using pilot programs or funding grants with fixed expiration terms. In these cases, the prospect of spending considerable capital on vehicles with unknown useful life is rather challenging in terms of council approval. Engaging with a qualified contractor to operate an on-demand service can eliminate the most significant start-up capital costs. Contractors like PWT are willing and better able to manage fleet utilization risk based on their ability to re-deploy equipment in other divisions at the expiry of pilot projects, contract terms, etc.


Service Support Capacity

Depending on the goals and objectives of an on-demand service, net additions to a municipal/transit agency fleet or general operations scope may occur. In these cases, there’s a decision regarding the available garage and parking space, parts inventory capacity, and management oversight capacity. PWT has found that, in most cases, municipalities and transit agencies tend to operate at close to maximum capacity in the areas listed above. The introduction of an on-demand service could push the limits of the organization’s available resources. Contracting out an on-demand service allows a municipality/transit agency to focus on its core services while handing off the responsibility for on-demand operations support to a third party. It is important to note that contracting out the service does not equal a total loss of control or direction. A well-written contract governing the service will still allow the municipality/agency to define the overarching goals and KPIs of the service and continuously monitor contractor performance toward these objectives.


Centralized Resources and Experience

One of the key downfalls of on-demand transit service is that the public cannot rely on a fixed schedule of pick-ups and drop-offs to inform their transportation decisions. In our experience, most customers quickly adapt and get used to an on-demand service offering. Despite the one downfall listed above, it provides significant benefits like direct service (no transfers), expanded service coverage area, flexibility, enhanced ride tracking capabilities, shorter trip duration walk distances, and more. However, customers who would previously rely on a fixed timetable or rider’s guide to navigate the system will need to port over to a smartphone app or dial-in options. As most of our clients insist on dial-in as a trip booking option, personnel may need to be introduced to handle additional call volumes. Contractors like PWT can centralize call-taking/reservation resources to dramatically reduce overall cost and increase customer satisfaction with the service (lower call wait times, for example). PWT has a central on-demand Customer Care Centre that looks after trip reservations, customer communications, and operational support for eight different on-demand systems. This allows PWT to staff the centre with agents who look after multiple systems, not one in specific, reducing overall staff numbers and expenses. PWT’s call centre provides an impressive span of call-taking coverage, and agents are experts in trip booking with multiple tech platforms, reducing average call time. The call centre can also work alongside or in addition to local call-taking resources, facilitating overload call-taking and after-hours communications with riders.

Another key benefit of contracting out on-demand operations is that contractors like PWT have extensive experience operating on-demand services in various communities and using various technology and app vendors. This allows us to see what’s different about the customer experience or service performance metrics depending on the community or tech platform so adjustments can be made in other locations that enhance our clients’ customer experience and overall satisfaction. The ability to scan the marketplace and advise clients on service impacts is extremely beneficial when making adjustments to a new service offering, making it as attractive as possible for users.


Cost and Overall Value

In most cases, when our municipal/transit agency clients or potential clients have studied the costs of operating on-demand transit service, the cost of operating in-house exceeds the cost of contracting out by about 30%. Much of this can be attributed to the information outlined above, including call-taking resources, fleet and facility expenses. Contractors can also save considerably in areas like technology expense (negotiating pricing for multi-system deals) and system oversight costs. Another critical factor when contracting out on-demand transit is whether it will optimize the labour force, given that on-demand services are most frequently delivered using much smaller transit vehicles. The capacity of these smaller shuttle-style vehicles will typically allow for the employment of vehicle operators with a lower driver’s license qualification (Class 4 vs. Class 2, Class F vs. Class C), which significantly expands the labour pool. Many municipalities/transit agencies struggle to incorporate these different wage classifications into their labour agreements, and contracting out provides the only mechanism to properly match operators’ required skills and qualifications with overall compensation. In our experience, demand for these jobs remains very high. It offers an excellent way for professional drivers with a lower license qualification to get exposure to public transit with the idea of perhaps upgrading to operate larger vehicles in the future.

The great news for municipalities and transit agencies is that the reduced operating cost does not degrade service quality. One of the key advantages of contracting out any service is managing the contractor through contractual performance metrics, which is not possible when delivering a service in-house. In a number of our current on-demand transit contracts, metrics like average wait times, in-vehicle travel times, on-time performance, customer satisfaction and more are written into the agreement as a way to govern the service and highlight where the contractor must direct its attention and resources. When performance metrics are trending in the wrong direction, it’s up to the contractor to fix (in conjunction with its technology vendor/partner) those issues to the client’s satisfaction. The side benefits this provides to the municipality/transit agency are monitoring and overseeing the on-demand service with one contract manager, or even adding to an existing transit professional’s duties.

The information outlined above highlights some key reasons why contracting out on-demand transit services may prove most effective, both in terms of cost and operational effectiveness – especially for municipalities and transit agencies who are still investigating the introduction of this delivery model to solve problems within their transit portfolio. Contractors like PWT continue to gather more and more experience providing on-demand services that operate in vastly different communities and environments. These services are designed to address different client needs, operated using various methods, including technology platforms and apps. This experience can be leveraged by other clients interested in approaching the implementation of on-demand transit by studying what’s currently happening in the industry and what has and has worked or not worked for cities and communities that have already “taken the plunge.”


Want to learn more about Contracted On Demand services? Contact us:

Okotoks On-Demand Transit Awarded for Exceptional Service

Okotoks On-Demand Transit Awarded for Exceptional Service

The Okotoks On-Demand Transit program was recently announced as the winner of the Minister’s Award for Municipal Excellence for Service Delivery Innovation by the Government of Alberta.

This award is given to a municipality that provides “an innovative initiative that improves the delivery process or reduces the cost of a program or service through a more efficient process or through the use of an alternate delivery approach”.

The curb-to-curb program launched in December 2019, providing service coverage and frequency that would not be possible through implementing a fixed-route public transit system. Okotoks On-Demand Transit, managed by the Town of Okotoks and operated by SOUTHLAND Transportation with RideCo as the technology partner, has surpassed all performance expectations, contributing to the agency’s many achievements that have resulted in this exciting award.

To learn more about Okotoks’ award-winning service, please read the Town of Okotoks press release.


We are immensely proud of the continuing success that the Okotoks On-Demand Transit service is experiencing – this success is a direct result of our strong partnership and passionate employees who have worked tirelessly to provide exceptional customer service to the residents of the Town of Okotoks! Receiving this award further solidifies our ongoing commitment to being the transportation Service Provider of Choice.


Source:, Okotoks On-Demand Transit Awarded for Exceptional Service

Webinar: Innovative Transit Solutions for Rural Communities

Webinar: Innovative Transit Solutions for Rural Communities

On-Demand is revolutionizing public transportation. With the recent Federal announcement for Rural Transportation funding (specifically noting Innovative and On-Demand Solutions), Pacific Western Transportation partnered with the Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) and the South Central Ontario Region Economic Development Corporation to discuss the impact of this funding and explore innovative transit solutions for rural communities in Ontario.

In this webinar, you will hear from speakers from South-Central Ontario municipalities and the private sector who will share their success stories and best practices in terms of on-demand and mixed on-demand/fixed-route transit system models. The agenda for the day included a panel discussion with presenters followed by a Q&A session from the audience.


  • Kim Earls – South Central Ontario Region Economic Development Corporation (SCOR)
  • John Stepovy – Director, Business Development, Pacific Western Transportation
  • Renee Champagne – Administrator, Engineering and Public Transit, Town of Cobourg
  • Blaire Sylvester – Public Transportation and Business Development Coordinator, Norfolk County

Learn about innovative transit solutions for rural communities in Ontario by catching the webinar recording!

Transit Demand in a Global Pandemic

Transit Demand in a Global Pandemic


We have all seen, firsthand, the changes in society that have been evident during this unprecedented pandemic. The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected all countries, provinces, and cities in different ways – whether that is in our business and work-life or our social lives. For many, it has meant spending a lot more time at home, making the demand for public transit decrease significantly.

Over the last 15 months, the closure of businesses, reduction in social activities, and ban on gatherings during the pandemic have reduced the use of Public Transit by as much as 90% in some regions. During the early stages of the pandemic, we saw more dramatic lows, and as we reached the end of 2020, these numbers levelled out to closer to a 50% decrease.

In 2019, the City of Calgary had an average of 106.4 million riders. During 2020, we saw this number drop to 52 million—that is a 51% decrease overall. Calgary hasn’t seen numbers this low since 1980. In 2021, we expect to see 60% of the ridership we saw in 2019. Marco D’Angelo, Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) CEO, said at the beginning of the pandemic, they saw a 90 percent drop in ridership. In 2019, we saw numbers exceeding 5 million across Canada. Now, across the country, there are approximately 2.5 million people taking transit every day.

Different transit operators reacted differently to the drastic reduction in passengers. Some municipalities reduced the number of routes by up to 75%, ended services earlier in the evenings, or started later in the day. Some areas chose to make no changes to their services and continued to run the empty routes. Daily commuters were no longer using public transit services with “work from home” protocols in the workplace, and many university classes were also continuing remote in the Fall of 2020 and Spring of 2021, so students no longer needed transportation to campus.

Other municipalities utilized their transit vehicles differently. The Town of Okotoks used one of their On-Demand buses to provide grocery deliveries to vulnerable residents and seniors. This was warmly received by the townsfolk, who appreciated the innovation from the Transit team.

Things we learned from the pandemic

  • Passenger numbers and revenue will drop dramatically
  • The reasons for Transit use will change
  • Flexibility and innovation will bring success
  • Doing nothing is not an option

Over the past 15 months, the transit community was faced with much uncertainty which has given us  the opportunity to pause and reflect. Throughout the pandemic, we have been able to learn how to stay relevant and innovative during times of crisis and a changing society. As we come to the end of the pandemic, we will continue to learn and develop innovative solutions for our customers and clients—leading the charge in Canadian Transit!

On Demand Transit in Your City: Launch Recap and Lessons Learned

On Demand Transit in Your City: Launch Recap and Lessons Learned

This week we held Part 3 of On Demand Transit in Your City! The webinar was hosted by John Stepovy and James Vine from Pacific Western Transportation, Sarah Feldman from the City of Edmonton, and Hamish Campbell from Via.

Here were our agenda items from the session: 

  • Service metrics vs. targets
  • Customer satisfaction and feedback
  • Service tweaks/adjustments made in early stages
  • Lessons learned

Edmonton On Demand has been running for six weeks and there has been continuous increase in completed rides each week. So far we have a high of 402 completed rides which took place on June 1st. The majority of riders are returning each day but we are also seeing that 10% are new riders using the service each day. 

If you missed the webinar on June 5 and want to learn more, check out the recording from the link below. You can also check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series in our blog!

If you have any questions about the On Demand service and how it might be a good fit for your community, feel free to reach out to John Stepovy or James Vine for more information.