UMIT president outlines several new initiatives being sought

CHECKING THE ROUTE—The United Manitoulin Islands Transit vehicle travelled for the first time along its initial Mindemoya to Manitowaning route this past Monday, July 20, seen here pausing at an intersection in Sheguiandah. Transit co-operative board members gathered in Little Current at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre for a small soft launch ceremony of coffee and cookies and said a larger public open house will soon follow. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

MANITOULIN – United Manitoulin Islands Transit (UMIT) is looking to launch a vehicle connector service that would link people from other communities to their current bus route so that riders can access the communities the main bus serves, before Christmas or shortly after, starting in South Baymouth.

“UMIT is finalizing our DRT (demand response transit) test site, which we hope will be in place before Christmas or shortly after, as soon as the parameters are finalized,” stated Guy Dumas, UMIT board president, late last week. He pointed out the test service will start with drivers in South Baymouth.

Mr. Dumas explained, “I have visited a number of (Wiikwemkoong) band members located here who will be the first drivers in place, on demand.” 

DRT is an artificial intelligence software platform and UMIT is working with Blaise Transit (of Montreal) on this pilot project. Every UMIT driver will have an iPad that will show where a ride request is coming from, and the shortest route. “So for instance, if I’m in Wiiky and a call comes in from Kaboni my iPad will direct me there.”

“We will carry this out for, say, a month in South Baymouth and then talk to band members of Rabbit Island and then slowly populate Wiiky with drivers,” continued Mr. Dumas. He explained that Blaise Transport representatives were on the Island all last week and asked a lot of questions, put on a focus group session and talked to residents in South Baymouth. “They accumulated raw data as to what is needed in terms of the software.” 

Mr. Dumas also has a couple of other major items he has up his sleeve that he would like to see take place for UMIT. “At our board meeting on November 25, I will bring up the issue of the electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure market. I introduced UMIT with the Tritium Company, which has its corporate office in Australia but is a global company. I’ve been in contact with The Americas in California, looking at their products and I think they would be a good fit for Manitoulin Island. If not, then there are other companies as well involved in EV.”

Mr. Dumas noted there are three electric vehicle stations in the area, in Espanola, McKerrow and Providence Bay. “So there are three in our vicinity. The electric vehicle market started 10 years ago and is growing exponentially. I am proposing to make Manitoulin Island recognized as an electric vehicle market economy and as part of that I have talked to representatives at the Ford manufacturing plant in Detroit, who said that EV transit vehicles (buses) will be produced early in 2021, the same size as the one we have now.” He said the idea is to purchase one for use on Manitoulin. 

“If there is interest we could have EV stations throughout Manitoulin Island,” said Mr. Dumas, “and if there is interest I can have one installed quickly. I think entrepreneurs and business enterprises need to take a serious look at EV outlets. Becoming an ally with UMIT to be in the EV market could change the entire game on Manitoulin Island. People just need to see the potential of all of this. And businesses have employees and customers that they want to see come through their doors, and they have goods and services they want to move. The EV market provides tremendous potential.” 

“With all the talk around the world of climate change, having the EV. market opened on Manitoulin would help see a reduction in carbonization locally,” said Mr. Dumas. “That’s a vision we would like to work toward-an electric vehicle market economy.”