“The new on-demand service transit service offers an excellent solution for our rural region that will better meet the needs of the Prescott and Russell population,” stated Warden Stéphane Sarrazin, following the June 9 session of the United Counties of Prescott-Russell council (UCPR).
Council gave the green light to the economic development and tourism department’s proposal to revamp the original PR Transpo project to an on-demand transit service that would operate Monday to Saturday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“It is a transit system that offers a solution for our rural region,” said Carole Lavigne, UCPR economic development and tourism director, during her presentation to council, “and best meets the needs for our population.”
The new PR Transpo will follow the example of on-demand public transit services operating in other communities in Ontario and around the world. Lavigne told council that the on-demand system would ensure that PR Transpo is “economically viable” as a regional interurban transit program.
Instead of following particular fixed routes and predetermined schedules, the new transit service will adapt to the schedules and destination needs of riders who phone or text or reserve a seat online for the day and time when they need to travel. The system will also better serve UCPR residents in more remote parts of the counties who did not have convenient access to the original fixed routes pickup and dropoff bus stops. Information on how to reserve seating is available at the UCPR website under PR Transpo.
“We hope that the people will adopt PR Transpo’s new service,” stated Lavigne, UCPR economic development director, “because it has been specifically designed to meet their needs. The added value of this innovative on-demand model represents for the riders will undoubtedly allow us to reach operational profitability and will ensure the sustainability of the transit service in the long run.”
The UCPR was one of several areas chosen for regional public transit pilot projects under the Ontario Transportation Ministry’s Community Transportation Grant Program (CTG). PR Transpo began operations as a traditional public transit service with fixed routes and scheduled stops in autumn 2020 but the pandemic forced temporary shutdowns that created problems with promoting ridership.
The ministry accepted a proposal to revamp the project as an on-demand system to maintain the remaining provincial funding support for the pilot project. PR Transpo remains eligible for up to $1.5 million in CTG support funds until March 2023. The UCPR will monitor use of the regional transit service to determine if it can prove a sustainable operation.