As North Bay’s transit system suffers a 50 percent revenue loss due to the pandemic, city hall is hopeful the promised dynamic dispatch system will help.
During Tuesday’s Operating Budget discussions, city staff outlined the transit system’s economic outlook heading into the 2021 budget. A revenue loss of 50 percent was reported, along with reduced ridership, with North Bay buses seeing roughly 5,000 fewer passengers per week.
As a result, city staff is budgeting less money into transit in 2021 to accommodate the drop in revenue, representing $200,000 less than in 2020.
But efficiency appears to be on the way, as the dynamic dispatch system is tentatively scheduled to be rolled out in mid-January.
The dynamic dispatch system has been dubbed as “Uber for buses” by some city councillors. It is an automated bus-scheduling system that takes requests from riders through an app or by phone during off-peak hours. Instead of constantly running routes for a handful of passengers during the off-peak hours, the system will send one bus to pick up whoever requested one at a specified time.
After a “soft rollout” in January, John Severino, Manager of Community Services says the dynamic system will run alongside a couple of fixed routes which he figures will optimize the transit system, ultimately saving in fuel and maintenance costs.
“It’s important that we have a system and schedule to get people to and from work or appointments,” Severino told council.
The optimized service comes at a time where staff are saying it could take up to four years for the transit system to resume to its pre-pandemic levels. The 2021 budget is assuming revenues will return to around 90 percent of the levels by September, which staff admitted is “overly optimistic”.
The 2021 budget features $1.44 million in reserve funds that will be used as a tax stabilization. $804,000 of that is going to the transit system to offset 2020 revenue losses.