Located an hour north of Toronto, the Town of Innisfil has been searching for a solution to their public transit needs for a long time. It’s a complex situation: how can they bring affordable and reliable transportation to their community—a large geographical area with a small but rapidly growing population?
Innisfil needed an answer. With a modest population density, the Town Council soon realized a traditional transit system just wouldn’t work. “There would be a big price tag attached to it and it would serve only a small portion of the municipality,” as stated by Lynn Dollin, Deputy Mayor.
In 2016, the Town of Innisfil reached out to our team to see if, together, we could establish an innovative solution to their transportation challenges. We were thrilled by this new opportunity to contribute to the Town’s mobility and were committed to finding a custom solution. Innisfil Transit was introduced in May 2017—a first-of-its-kind partnership that offers residents an affordable and convenient transportation option—accessed through the Uber app.
Today, Innisfil residents have a new means of transportation at their fingertips. They have the option to leave their car at home and are taking advantage of it. Since the launch of Innisfil Transit, thousands of residents have taken trips to connect with the commuter rail station, get to work, go out with friends, or visit their doctor. Further, hundreds of drivers have earned money by helping to move their community.
The story of Innisfil may be unique, but their challenges are not. Municipalities around the world are struggling to meet their residents’ transportation needs. Whether it’s helping a senior citizen get to the grocery store or reducing the stress of a commuter, we’re proud of the impact we’ve made in Innisfil. And we’re eager to learn how we can collaborate with other municipalities to help build better cities with more transportation options.
The spark that started it all
While on his way home, Jason Reynar, the Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Innisfil, noticed a resident walking along one of the Town’s main roads. It was the dead of winter and her arms were full with grocery bags.
Jason pulled over to offer her a ride home—Joanne accepted and the two struck up a conversation. She shared with him her struggle of getting around town without owning a car or having public transit options.
Inspired by Joanne’s story and motivated to bring an alternative transportation solution to Innisfil, Jason returned to Town Hall and asked Staff to investigate its feasibility and a consulting firm was commissioned to produce a report on transit options.
A complex challenge
Innisfil is a 36,500-person town an hour north of Toronto in Simcoe County. Over the past decade, the town has experienced significant growth. The development of suburban housing and urbanization, mixed with surrounding rural farmlands, created a challenge common to large and small municipalities alike.
How does a growing city move residents affordably and efficiently?
The consultants had recommended that the Town consider a one or two traditional fixed route bus option—both having a prohibitively expensive price tag¹. In the first year, a one-bus service would cost the Town $231,000 in gross capital costs and $330,000 in operating costs. The two-bus service would cost $439,000 in gross capital costs and $541,000 in operating costs for Year 1. Additionally, a fixed route bus line comes with many operational limitations; the service can operate between the hours of 7am-5pm exclusively and only serve residents within walking distance of the route.
Rather than approve a costly transit option that would only service a small area of the Town, Council approved Staff’s recommendation to pursue a more cost-effective and on-demand transit solution that would provide coverage across all of Innisfil.
Designed by Innisfil, supported by Uber
At the end of 2016, The Town of Innisfil approached us looking to explore alternative solutions. Together, we co-designed a custom transit solution, named Innisfil Transit. It offers residents flat fare rides to popular destinations, such as the train station, the recreation complex or the Innisfil Employment Area. In addition, there is a standard $5 discount applied to any other rides beginning or ending anywhere else in Innisfil.
To make the service as efficient as possible, Innisfil Transit was built on top of uberPOOL, our carpooling service. It matches riders going in the same direction so they can share a vehicle and the cost of the ride. At scale, uberPOOL moves more people in fewer cars and, as a result, can help reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of Innisfil, the use of shared rides made the Town eligible for a shared transit provincial government subsidy.
By partnering with us to create Innisfil Transit, the Town estimates it is saving more than $8 million per year, based on the cost of implementing a public transit accessible by every household. Rather than absorbing these significant capital and operating costs to provide bus coverage across town, the Town has only spent $165,535 on Innisfil Transit rides after eight months.
The benefit of Innisfil Transit on residents
Innisfil Transit has changed the Town for the better and improved the community’s quality of life. Innisfil residents, who never before had access to public transportation, can now get a door-to-door ride at an affordable price. The service is proven to be reliable, with an average wait time to get a vehicle of 8:48 minutes² and is available 24/7. Within eight months, over 3,400 users have completed more than 26,700 Innisfil Transit trips. We’re inspired by their stories of how they were impacted by the new service.
The people of Innisifil
The introduction of this innovative transit service has transformed how Innisfil residents get around their community. To date, we’ve been thrilled with the adoption of Innisfil Transit and are excited to continue working with the Town to expand the service in 2018 and beyond.
Creating flexible earning opportunities
It’s important to point out that beyond riders, drivers are also benefiting from the service. The introduction of Innisfil Transit has created hundreds of flexible earning opportunities for Simcoe County residents. From May 2017 to the end of that year, over 1,300 driver-partners have completed Innisfil Transit trips and generated income.
While uberX was already available to Innisfil’s residents, Innisfil Transit has increased the number of Uber trips in town by 1,500%³. Uber driver-partners in the area are busier than ever. Better yet, with drivers often living and working in the area, their earnings go right back into the local economy!
Partnering with cities
One of the most exciting results of our partnership is the strong relationship we’ve built with the Town of Innisfil. We worked closely with Town Council, Staff, and the residents of Innisfil to develop this innovative solution to address their mobility challenge. None of it would have been possible without their support, and we deeply appreciate their trust.
Innisfil Transit is a unique service that was tailor-made for the Town. At Uber, we’re eager to work with other municipalities to build new solutions to address their communities’ specific transportation challenges.
We’re excited to be a strong partner for all of the cities we operate in. If your city or agency would like to learn more about partnering with us to implement programs to improve urban planning, complement existing infrastructure, and make transportation more accessible to everyone, everywhere, get in touch via uber.com/city-partners.
*All money amounts are in Canadian Dollars
² Average wait time in January 2018.
³ Weekly rides with Uber are up 1,500% compared to the 8 weeks before the Innisfil Transit launch.