Pilot project launching
Kevin Werner Flamborough Review Monday, January 25, 2021
Hamilton will be introducing what is being billed as an “innovative” on-demand pilot transit service for Waterdown residents starting this fall.
The one-year pilot project that transit officials and Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge have been discussing for the last several months would use existing budgetary funds to provide an alternative transit option to an underserviced area.
Manager of Transit Strategy Jason Vander Heide said the city has fallen short to provide transit service to Flamborough residents, especially within the Waterdown area and business parks, which have expanded.
The idea is to launch the service in September with an app or other software to allow residents to dial up a ride. The service would be limited from Waterdown to Hamilton and be paid through the existing area-rating transit funds that residents already contribute.
Transit officials are currently in the procurement stage to select a provider, which handcuffs them from publicly detailing the potential cost of the service, to some councillors’ pointed questions during a contentious Jan. 22 budget meeting.
For the most part, councillors applauded the idea of introducing the pilot project to test an alternative transit service.
“I want to support Waterdown residents,” said Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr. “They are completely underserved.”
Glanbrook Coun. Brenda Johnson and Stoney Creek Coun. Maria Pearson both were keen to see the project’s results so they could adapt the system to service their residents’ transit needs.
“I’m in full support of the Waterdown pilot project,” said Johnson. “I hope we can see more coming forward.”
A few other councillors, though, had questions about the project, such as how much it would cost, how many riders it would serve and how it would impact transit in other parts of the city.
Mountain Coun. John-Paul Danko, who introduced a motion to seek further information on the project, questioned the service. He said transit staff were “changing” how the city provides transit to residents and the project needed a full examination.
“At the very least we need to know what the costs are, how they will be shared and what the outcomes are,” said Danko.
He said Waterdown “has one of the highest incomes” in the city, yet lower income residents only have minimal transit service.
“What about these residents who earn minimum wage? They are retail clerks; they are new Canadians; they are taking care of their families,” said Danko. “The current routes are operating on reduced service.”
The mountain councillor’s motion was defeated 11-3.
Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann said she was “blindsided” by the on-demand transit service project for Waterdown introduced by staff at the meeting. In her ward, there are residents who are “essential workers” and they also earn some of the lowest income in the city, yet their transit service has been slashed.
In a pointed comment, Partridge repeatedly said the project is for one year and will be paid for by Flamborough residents. She said transit staff has introduced a “progressive transit alternative” for residents to use and will help in reducing climate change, yet “they are getting smacked” by her colleagues.
“We worked hard on this,” she said. “The community is quite excited by it. I think it is very, very sad.”