September 15, 2020
Vector Calgary cityscape

Transit on your schedule

Calgary Transit is exploring a new, innovative way to deliver transit service. We’d like to see if using a more customized service model in areas with low ridership can make taking transit easier, more convenient, and tailored to the needs of our customers.

Beginning October 13, 2020, we’re introducing on-demand service in the southwest communities of Aspen Woods, Christie Park, Strathcona Park, Signal Hill, Springbank Hill and Discovery Ridge. Right now this area is served by four community shuttles routes: 94, 164, 439 and 454, which will be removed and replaced by on-demand service. This will allow customers to book travel as needed, to be picked up and dropped off at any of the existing stops in the community and other major locations (e.g. Westhills, 69 Street Station, grocery stores, large commercial areas).

On Demand will provide full service for these communities, with the same service hours as the current routes. But instead of having empty buses driving fixed routes through the area, On Demand will create the flexibility to send shuttles where they’re needed, and when - on your schedule.

How it will work

Using the On Demand app:

You can view, change or cancel your booked trips in the My Trips section of the On Demand app.

Taking your trip:

  • The app will let you know where and when to wait for your ride, so you just have to make sure you leave yourself enough time to walk to your pick up location. If you’d like, you can use the map within the app to make sure you’re heading to the right spot.
  • The app will allow you to see where your bus is and its estimated time of arrival at your pick-up location.
  • Once your ride arrives, board the vehicle as usual, showing the operator your proof of fare.

Booking an On Demand trip by phone:

  • Call 403-262-1000 and let them know you’d like to book an on demand trip. They’ll ask you where and when you’d like to ride, and will let you know where to wait for your ride.
  • Head out to your pick up location, giving yourself enough time to get there before the pick-up time you were given. The operator can only wait for one minute past the time you’ve booked.

If you need to cancel or reschedule your trip, just call 403-262-1000.

FAQs

What is the service area for On Demand?

On Demand will serve Aspen Woods, Christie Park, Strathcona Park, Signal Hill, Springbank Hill and Discovery Ridge. View map.

What can I expect for wait times?

For pre-planned trips, we aim to be there as close to your requested time as possible. You’ll know in advance what time to wait for your ride.

For last-minute bookings, you may wait up to 30 minutes, which is comparable to the wait today, depending on what time you go to a bus stop. Wait times will vary depending on the time of day you’d like to book your trip. During peak times there may not be a vehicle available for a last-minute booking for 30-60 minutes. In the middle of the day, the wait times will be shorter.

For both pre-booked and last-minute trips, once you book a trip, the app will give you estimated times for pick-up and arrival at your destination. These times are estimates, and may change by up to six minutes. You will receive updates on arrival times in the app, and get a text message when your ride is close.

When a ride is requested, you’ll be given a 10-minute pick-up window. If you have a smartphone with the app, you’ll be able to see where the bus is and where it is expected at the pick-up location. This means less waiting in the cold winter. However, please don’t be late.

The maximum time the vehicle will wait for you at your requested pick-up location is one minute. Please don’t be late (take a look at our no-show/cancellation information).

How far in advance can I book a trip?

While the two day pre-booking has worked well in our pilot area, we’ve heard that customers in the West Calgary service area would like more time, so we’ve increased it to five days, meaning you can book for all your trips for the work week (Monday to Friday) on Sunday.

What about booking an unplanned ride?

On Demand service should provide similar or better flexibility/spontaneity than the current fixed-route service does. While pre-booking does require some planning in advance, our last-minute trip booking means that you don’t have to wait for the next scheduled bus to take a trip; instead you’ll book it as you need it.

For example, if you usually take Route 439, right now it has service every 40 minutes in non-peak times. If you want to take a trip during the day but just miss the stop time at your stop, you’ll have to wait 40 minutes for the next bus. With On Demand, your wait time will be 15-30 minutes, and will likely take you on a more direct route to your destination, since it won’t have to follow a fixed route or stop at timepoints along the way.

How will people without cell phones use the On Demand service?

We know that not all of our customers have access to a smartphone, and so we will have an option to book a trip by phoning our call centre. Our customer service staff will be able to book the trip and let our customers know where and when to wait for their ride.

What are On Demand's hours of operation?

This is intended to replace existing service, so will have similar operating hours as shuttles in the area currently have.

  • 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays
  • 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends

How can you ensure reliability and predictability?

The On Demand app will allow you to see exactly where your ride is while you wait, so you don’t have to worry that it has already come and gone or that it isn’t coming at all. Trips are planned by the app in advance, to take the fastest/best route for each trip or combination of trips. If there is a delay, you’ll get an update, so you always know what to expect.

What types of vehicles will On Demand use?

In the West Calgary service area, On Demand service will be provided by a Calgary Transit community shuttle, just like it is today.

How are you addressing COVID and over-crowding?

With the introduction of the municipal mask bylaw, we’ve relaxed restrictions on our shuttles to full seated capacity. This means that the maximum number of people our shuttles can serve is restricted to the number of seats we have. It applies whether the shuttle is on-demand or a traditional fixed route. This will actually help us schedule our on demand service to ensure we have enough vehicles to meet the needs of our customers - we’ll know in advance how many shuttles we need to send at any given time. And our customers will know that they won’t be left behind because their shuttle is over capacity.

How many passengers are allowed in a vehicle?

Our On Demand shuttles will book up to 21 customers at one time.

Can children take On Demand?

Yes they can. Regular fares apply for youth taking transit.

Will I need to transfer if I use On Demand transit?

This will depend on your origin and destination. If you’re traveling within the service area only, you won’t have to transfer; your On Demand vehicle will take you to your destination. If you’re traveling beyond the service area, you will need to transfer (e.g. to the CTrain).

Where do I catch my On Demand shuttle at 69 Street Station?

The On Demand pick up location at 69 Street Station is on northbound 69 Street, just south of the station. When you arrive at the station, exit from the east doors and head south. See image.

How will you ensure that people boarding booked that shuttle?

If there are multiple people waiting at a stop, there may be more than one shuttle on its way to that stop. To ensure customers get on the right shuttle, the app will let customers know which vehicle to board, and the operator will confirm customers as they board. We don’t anticipate that our customers will intentionally board the wrong shuttle, as its trip will be customized to their destination. If they board the wrong one, they’ll be taken somewhere else.

How do I know which shuttle is mine?

Every shuttle has a vehicle number that you can see from the outside of the vehicle – the number is located above the door and at the rear of the shuttle.

The On Demand app will let you know which vehicle is coming for you on the “Track My Ride” screen and on the text message that is sent to you.  See image

If there is only one person booked, will they be picked up?

The one person will be picked up and brought to their destination.

What do the On Demand routes look like?

The route for each trip is planned based on the needs of customers on that vehicle. For example, if there are eight customers on a vehicle who are all going to 69 St Station, the On Demand shuttle will take the most direct, fastest route to the station once those eight customers have been picked up.

This means that On Demand vehicles will sometimes take different routes than the shuttles in the area do now, to make each trip as efficient as possible. So you may see On Demand shuttles on smaller, residential streets, if they are the best route.

Is there an additional cost for me to ride On Demand?

There is no additional cost for you to take an on demand trip; your regular transit fare is valid for your ride. Just like any other time you ride on Transit, you’ll need to ensure you have the right fare for your trip.

  • A single ride ticket is valid for 90 minutes from the time it’s validated
  • A day pass is valid until 2 a.m. the day after it’s purchased
  • A monthly pass is valid for a calendar month

What kind of impact will On Demand have on school routes?

Calgary Transit provides school express service inside and out of this pilot area and these routes will remain in place. For schools that are within the West Calgary service area that do not have a school express, we will be monitoring the number of students using On Demand and see if it can handle the demand or if it would be more cost effective to add a school express route. With COVID, it is difficult to predict student numbers, which is why the flexibility of the On Demand model is preferred.

What can I do to ensure the service works for me?

To improve service for everyone, we ask customers to:

  • Plan your trips well and allocate adequate time in between transfers
  • If you can’t make a trip, make sure you cancel it versus keeping the trip and not showing up
  • If you must cancel a trip, aim to cancel it at least 60 minutes prior to boarding

No shows and cancellations

To ensure our service runs as smoothly as possible, we’ve introduced a No-Show/Late Cancellation policy:

Accounts will be reviewed based on:

  • High no-show rate (failing to board your ride without prior cancellation)
    • No-showing three or more times in your last 10 consecutive booked rides
  • High late cancellation rate (cancelling less than 60 minutes prior to boarding)
    • Cancelling three or more times in your last 10 consecutive booked rides

When an account is under review we will first contact the customer to get a better understanding of the situation, provide trip planning tips as required, and issue a warning. If the issue continues, Calgary Transit may suspend the account for up to two weeks.

Why are you trying on demand transit service in this area?

Some of our established communities have very low ridership. This makes it expensive and inefficient to provide traditional bus service with set routes and fixed schedules. On demand, shared transportation service may provide an opportunity to introduce more cost-effective and efficient transit service to these communities.

Southwest Calgary was chosen primarily on ridership levels. While the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced ridership significantly in all areas of the city, this area had quite low levels even before the pandemic. We’ve found that there are often empty shuttles running throughout the community. As a result, we’re looking into whether using an on-demand model can be a cost-effective way to provide service to customers, which may prevent route cancellations in the future.

How long will you be trying On Demand in this area?

On-Demand service will run for one year and will then be assessed to see if it should continue.

What if the service doesn't work for the community?

The On Demand service is intended to make taking transit easier and more convenient for our customers. If it turns out that the service doesn’t work for customers, we’ll either make adjustments to it, or return to a more traditional, fixed-route service.

Livingston/Carrington On Demand pilot

For information about the NE On Demand pilot, click here