Carole Lavigne, economic development and tourism director for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR), received the support of UCPR council during its February 10 session for a key stage in the plan to transform the PR Transpo system into an on-call regional transit service.
« We are now starting the process to change over to on-demand (calls), » said Lavigne during a later interview. « It would take about four to six months at least to implement this. »
Lavigne presented a preliminary report on the on-call service proposal to UCPR council last October. The report included results of two computer simulations of how a successful on-call regional transit system could work.
The UCPR received a provincial transportation fund grant for a four-year pilot regional transit project. PR Transpo began operations in October 2019 but shut down in spring 2020 because of the pandemic. The regional transit system restarted in September and shut down again in October because of low ridership due to the second wave of the pandemic.
The province will not let the UCPR use the transportation grant for any other purposes. An on-call transit service offers a way to maintain PR Transpo on a limited but cost-effective basis.
« As a pilot project we can try anything to make it (PR Transpo) viable, » Lavigne said.
Lavigne noted that Leduc Bus Lines was contracted for the PR Transpo system when it first began operation and will continue as the contracted carrier for the on-call setup. There would not be a passenger link between PR Transpo and Ottawa’s OCTranspo.
« This project is for inter-municipal only, » she said, « and we have a large region to serve.”
Lavigne’s department is also working on a new user rates system for the on-call service to present for UCPR council’s approval at a later date.
Desoronto, a town in Hastings County, has an on-call transit service for its rural area. The town has the same population size and general geography as Prescott-Russell. An on-call bus service is not the same as an Uber or taxi service because it can serve many passengers at once with pre-determined individual stops for pickup and return service.