The Ride Well program is set to be extended until the first quarter of 2025 as the county has received confirmation on the extension of provincial funding.
The Ontario government announced the extension of the funding of up to $14 million over two years for communities providing transportation services in unserved and underserved regions across Ontario through the Community Transportation Grant program.
The county’s share of the new funding is $242,514, which covers from 2023 to 2025.
At Tuesday’s County of Wellington’s economic development committee meeting, Ken DeHart, county treasurer, noted that in recent months, ridership levels have increased and the use of service is continuously growing.
Due to this, the passenger cost and contract costs have been adjusted based on the current user-experience as well as anticipated needs for operating capacity in 2022.
“These changes result in a 79 per cent reduction to the net cost for Ride Well in 2022 and reduction to tax levy requirements of $104,000,” said DeHart.
In the second year of the program, Ride Well had reduced its vehicle hours to accommodate a lower demand from COVID-19 but eventually saw a slight increase in October as stated in the report submitted by Crystal Ellis, director of economic development.
“The cost recovery rate is the rate at which Ride Well recoups its costs through passenger revenue. Therefore, the more rides that are serviced within a given supply of vehicle hours, the better the cost recovery,” said Ellis.
“As a result of the ridership increase and limited vehicle hours, the cost recovery improved significantly from year one to year two."
The report also stated that Centre Wellington continues to host the majority of the rides as Fergus and Elora are the top pick up and drop off locations.
There has been a broader coverage within Guelph in the second year of the program than its first year due to the elimination of transfer points, and a modest increase to rides in Wellington North.
“I’m happy to see the ridership numbers increase because public transportation is so important,” said Coun. Jeff Duncan. “I do have a question, is there a rider threshold or how many people are allowed to share a ride?”
Ellis answered that she and her staff have inquired Public Health about ride sharing, and Public Health suggested to still keep that two metre distance and everyone has to be masked within.
“We’re hoping that we can open that ride sharing feature by March or early April next year as it makes the project much more efficient,” said Ellis.
Angelica Babiera, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com