Okotoks Transit System Majorly Successful in Its First Year

3 minute read

This article was originally written by Harrison O’Nyons for Okotoks Online.

The Town of Okotoks’ on-demand transit service launched just over a year ago and has already seen measurable success.

Transit Specialist with the Town of Okotoks, David Gardner, says the service surpassed many of the goals set by the town prior to its launch.

“The transit plan forecast that we should achieve 18,000 passengers in our first year. We achieved 27,402 in year one. That’s not including 1559 grocery delivery trips which we did in the second and third quarters of the year.”

The system also maintained regular ridership even into December, despite colder temperatures and increased provincial restrictions.

Their goals for passengers per service-hour, shared rides, and on-time performance were also exceeded, with the latter totalling 98%.

Gardner says budgetary goals were met and surpassed, an especially noteworthy achievement in the transit world.

“The first year target was a 7% cost recovery. I would expect we were close to 15%, possibly around 13% cost recovery for this year. We’ve operated well within our budget, we are significantly below budget for the year.”

He says the digital nature of user engagement provides an easily-observable base of data and statistics that only grows day-by-day.

“The on-demand service is set up to provide us with a vast amount of data that one could certainly get lost in if you choose, but it really provided us with a very direct visibility on what was happening in terms of ridership.”

According to Gardner, the readily-available nature of this data assisted in tweaking and tailoring service as they went, making it easy to identify and eliminate inefficiencies and test innovations on the fly.

He says these successes are only amplified when considering the town’s goals were established before the pandemic began.

“When anybody’s forecasting any kind of financial, or efficiency, or operational targets, you would always go for high, medium, and low targets, and sometimes more than that. 2020 was, no doubt, the absolute (one would hope) worst-case scenario on the low side. That is why I think the numbers and the outcomes we’ve seen in 2020 for Okotoks Transit are remarkable.”

The transit service did face some challenges in having to adapt to fit with COVID-19 protocols and measures. It functioned as a grocery delivery system for a time, in keeping with similar systems established by various supermarket chains as the pandemic ramped up in March and into April.

The maximum number of passengers on each vehicle was, of course, decreased and sanitization protocols were established.

Additionally, new hybrid vehicles introduced in the summer also included bike racks, a feature that came in handy with the increase in cycling in 2020, largely due to the pandemic.

Gardner says despite the success, there is still plenty of learning and improvement to do, namely in terms of observing how the seasons affect service (the pandemic skewed seasonal usage rates,) and a goal to increase the rate of shared rides; though COVID is also currently prohibiting growth in that area.

With that said, Gardner says the future is looking bright.

“I would expect through 2021 and definitely into 2022, we’ll really be able to increase the shared rides, increase the supply of vehicles as demand grows up, and be able to really grow transit in Okotoks into the next level.”


Recent Articles