Tillsonburg's T:GO Call-N-Ride – a community transportation initiative – officially launched its new bus routes Monday morning with a 'party' at The Livingston Centre.
The community had a chance to see the newly purchased T:GO bus, meet committee members (Community Transportation Pilot Program Steering Committee) and enjoy some cake.
Developed by the committee to provide a low-cost option to residents of Tillsonburg, T:GO Call-N-Ride is a community bus program that operates Monday through Friday, from 6:15 a.m. to about 3:45 p.m., providing rides within Tillsonburg.
The introductory fare of $2 (5 fares for $10) is available by purchasing a T:GO Rider Pass, sold at The Livingston Centre and The Multi-Service Centre offices. To book a ride on T:GO, call 519-842-9000. For up-to-date information about schedules, follow T:GO CALL-N-RIDE on Facebook (T:GO) or the website www.ridetogo.ca.
John Preston, Community Transportation Coordinator, is the bus driver, and hits the streets at 6:15 a.m.
"Right now I'm driving," said Preston, ready to leave The Livingston Centre Monday morning on his route, "to help me get a better sense of Tillsonburg... and kind of figure out where some of the key pickup areas will be. And to meet some of the people who are riding. I also enjoy it because you get to talk to people."
The schedule is a work in progress, he said.
"We left gaps in the schedule primarily to get people moving and to provide transportation for community programs. Things like the Helping Hand Food Bank, they just talked to me about potentially helping their clients getting where they need to go. We talked about creating specific routes for their clients to get them down and back."
The T:GO bus operates on a flex-route system. Preston follows a base route, but it can be adjusted to meet people's needs.
"For example, when I first started this route I didn't go into the north-east end, which I knew would eventually come up. And last week it did. I still do the 'work' run first thing in the morning, then I make adjustments if they need it.
"It's not a door-to-door service," he noted. "But we are prepared to meet them halfway if it's more convenient for them. It is not a taxi. I try to get them as close as I can, but it is not door-to-door."
Currently they are asking for 24-hour advanced notice to help them organize the schedule.
"Because it's new, we're trying to educate people on how to take advantage of the bus system."
The bus arrived in town the first week of March and they've been testing it for the past few weeks.
"We knew what we wanted, but the availability of something like this was hard to come by," said Preston. "These are special orders, they're hard to find."
A little intimidated at first by its size, knowing he would be driving it, Preston said "it's a great drive."
The bus came about through discussions between The Multi-Service Centre, Stonebridge and Community Living, then expanded to other community organizations.
"We wanted it open to the community as well – we're part of the community," said Preston. "We want to provide for the community and support the community any way we can. We offer rides to clients, but we made the bus available to anybody who needs it for affordable rides in town."
Typically it takes 3-5 years for a new transportation systems to realize its full potential, said Preston. But he has a three-month plan to gauge ridership interest, introduce new promotions, and assess its success.
"It's about being efficient," said Preston. "That's what I'm looking at right now, how to make it more efficient so that it's quick and more accessible to everybody."
The Community Transportation Pilot Program has funding for one year, and by March 2017 they hope to have a sustainable program set up.