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Council approval needed for $71K transit pilot project featuring online booking and dispatching

'The automated system will manage bookings, dispatch vehicles and assign pick-ups and drop-offs to operators in real-time'
20200609 transit bus north bay turl
North Bay City Council can approve a transit pilot project at its regular meeting. Jeff Turl/BayToday.

North Bay City Council could signal a departure from the City's typical transit operations if its members approve a contract for a pilot project at tonight's virtual regular meeting.

In a bid to retain and attract new transit users, the City of North Bay says it is willing to test out a pilot project that is meant to better allocate resources during off-peak times.

"Passengers will have the option to pre-book trips online, by telephone during business hours and/or upon boarding. The automated system will manage bookings, dispatch vehicles and assign pick-ups and drop-offs to operators in real-time," reads a report to council on the agenda for tonight's regular meeting.

The new system is designed to adjust to customer requests in real-time, and similar initiatives have shown a decrease in unnecessary on-road time and fleet maintenance, plus shorter overall trip times for riders, according to the report. 

The recommendation from staff is for Council to approve the award of a $71,645 (plus HST) contract to Via Mobility LLC (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Via Transportation, Inc.) for the Dynamic Dispatch for Transit Services Pilot. Via Mobility scored the highest of four proposals received. Included is an option for the City of North Bay to extend the contract for three additional years if the pilot is successful, at a cost of $40,000 annually for years two through four of the agreement.

Although in past years the City examined an on-demand transit model for lower ridership periods, this Dynamic Transit system gained favour. The ability of the system to plan its route as users notify their pick-up locations and stops appealed to North Bay Transit. According to staff, the idea is to dispatch buses where the customers need them and savings are realized in operating costs.

North Bay City Council will hold two virtual meetings Tuesday. A special meeting is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. to address changes to the procedural by-law related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That will be followed at 6:30 p.m. by the regular meeting of council.