The best public transportation for a rural community like Six Nations is an on-demand ride-sharing system, Six Nations Public Works has found.
A transportation study revealed that a ride-sharing type app, where residents would book a ride and other residents headed in the same direction would be picked up along the way, makes the most sense for a community the size of Six Nations.
Stephanie Burnham, a Six Nations community member who works with Dillon Consulting, the firm hired to conduct the transit study, said public transportation is much-needed in the community.
“I think we can all agree that it’s an important service that is needed in our community,” said Burnham.
The study results took into account feedback from a community survey conducted last fall.
Dennis Kar, a transit planner from Dillon Consulting, says public transit is important for a number of reasons: it helps support independent living for seniors and people with disabilities; it helps increase access to job opportunities and access to education and skills training, and improves the safety of people who are traveling.
“Where there’s no transit system in place, there’s a loss of accessibility for seniors and youth who are unable to drive, and members who are unable to afford vehicles,” said Kar.
It can also impact mental health from social isolation, contribute to higher rates of unemployment, and increase high-risk behaviours like hitchhiking, he said.
The majority of survey respondents said they’d be likely to use a public transit service on Six Nations, with about 16 per cent of respondents saying they didn’t have access to a vehicle at all.
The survey also identified how expensive it is to pay for a taxi.
A ride-sharing program would be cheaper for residents, the study concluded.
The study identified how often people leave the reserve and what the main destinations are, both on and off-reserve.
The village of Ohsweken, and its medical facilities, is a main destination for most on-reserve travel.
Off-reserve, Brantford and Hamilton are popular destinations, with grocery trips being a large reason people travel off the reserve.
Walmart and Limeridge Mall in Hamilton are popular destinations, and the Brantford GO station and Lynden Park Mall were cited as popular destinations in those nearby cities.
The on-demand service would require a mobile app to book a ride, with recommendations to book a ride at least an hour before your planned departure.
It would be a curb-to-curb service, instead of having transit stops, due to the lack of sidewalks on the reserve.
Kar said about 15 per cent of the service costs would be covered by ridership fees and the rest would have to be subsidized.
There are no estimates yet on how much the service would cost to implement or operate, said Kar, adding they haven’t gotten that far yet.
Overall, the on-demand ride-sharing program seemed to work best, according to Kar. About 55 per cent of survey respondents agreed.
“We felt that the on-demand service model was the most effective in meeting all the needs that were identified,” said Kar.