United Manitoulin Islands Transit group takes part in on-demand service pilot project

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), in partnership with Blaise Transit, are initiating a pilot project to offer on-demand passenger bus services to riders on Manitoulin.

UMIT will use the Montreal-based tech company Blaise’s rideshare software in early 2021 for riders travelling between Dooganing (South Bay, within the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory) to other areas of Wiikwemkoong, north and central Manitoulin as part of its fixed-route bus line. The service currently makes two runs a day across the northern and central areas of the Island, and the added on-demand service will blanket Manitoulin.

Joahnna Berti, UMIT executive director said in a news release, “United Manitoulin Islands Transit has been inspired working with the innovation and creative transit solutions offered at Blaise. We are excited about the opportunity to pilot an on-demand transit system in Wiikwemkoong that will connect passengers to UMIT’s fixed-route service and the wider community on Manitoulin Island.”

“We envision a completely new way of thinking about human travel that will connect our residents with vital services and contribute to revitalizing our local economy,” said Ms. Berti.

It was explained that by using the Blaise Transit app, passengers who request a ride are paired up with other riders going in the same direction and a bus is sent to pick them up. To decrease trip times and costs, they are then picked up and dropped off at bus stops near their origins and destinations.

Bus drivers can use the app to guide them along the route and get directions to bus stops on a tablet provided by Blaise.

The release notes that UMIT will also have access to real-time data generated through the software, which can then be used to analyze ridership trends and the cost to operate the service.