Can offering a personalized service convince people to reconnect with public transport? This is the bet that exo is trying to win in Greater Montreal. “Transport on Demand” pilot projects carried out in Beloeil and Terrebonne have enabled the carrier to increase the number of bus trips.
With this new service, which has been in the testing phase since 2021, customers can book their trip through a mobile application or exo customer service. Then, the user specifies his destination and his departure time, then he is informed, always by the application, of the approach of the bus. You pay your ticket once on board.
“The algorithm allows us to create the best route for the driver. This provides more direct frequencies for everyone and reduces travel times. It also allows us to cover a larger territory,” he explains to Press exo’s executive director of customer experience, Marie Hélène Cloutier.
In Beloeil, where the project has been running since the summer of 2021, the service generates an average of about 3,000 trips per month. “In a town of approximately 25,000 inhabitants, this is a very important gain. We have more than 250 virtual stops so far”, says Mto me More cloudy. In two years, the supply has increased by more than 120%. Some eight local lines that had a passage every two hours on average, not often in the afternoon or on Sundays, were “modified” to put this system into operation in Beloeil.
In addition, around 40% of people using Beloeil’s “transport a la carte” “were not bus customers”, and 53% of trips were previously made by car, says the director.
It shows us very clearly that it responds to new needs, and that it is a solution to driving alone.
Marie Hélène Cloutier, Executive Director of Customer Experience at exo
“With the pandemic, transportation is no longer oriented to home work as before,” he illustrates.
In Terrebonne, more taxis
If in Beloeil the buses have deviated from their normal schedule for this new service, the reality is different in Terrebonne, where “transport on demand” has only been tested since last summer. In this municipality, up to four exocars are deployed throughout the territory, to directly pick up users and take them to the bus stops. It serves approximately 800 users monthly.
“This is another model that we are testing for a year, and which is also the subject of a direct subsidy from the Municipal Green Fund. It awakens the interest of many underserved localities with which we work”, says Ms.to me Cloutier on this.
In Terrebonne, more than a thousand people have become exo customers thanks to the project, which however generates additional expenses for exo, despite the subsidies. The initiative could grow quite quickly if all goes well.
In Europe, where on-demand transportation is already well established, we see a lot of people carriers or minibuses. It is a flexibility to test over time.
Marie Helene Cloutier
Exo also plans to submit a “long-term plan” for on-demand transportation development to the Legault government soon. In particular, discussions could start to “perpetuate” the service in Beloeil and Terrebonne, but also in other neighboring municipalities.
A solution to the financing crisis?
It’s no longer a secret: trucking companies are struggling financially to recover from the pandemic. In Greater Montreal, the Regional Transportation Metropolitan Authority (ARTM) is facing a massive $500 million budget hole. And by 2027, that number could reach 900 million province-wide, according to the Association du transport urbain du Québec (ATUQ).
Faced with “financing challenges”, transport on demand “is a method to be seriously considered, since it allows serving certain communities more quickly and locally than fixed lines”.
“You have to look at how, in each case, to display a vision of growth, but you definitely have to be part of it. This is a path into the future for us,” continues Mr.to me More cloudy.
Officially, exo is the first transportation company to transform a local offer into on-demand transportation. But she is not the first to try this practice. In 2021, the Société de transport de Montréal piloted the service on demand (SALD) MUVE, a pilot project that tests “a new mobile application that makes it possible to book a shared taxi more quickly in Senneville and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue” .
Result: the project “contributed to the improvement of the service”, ruled the company, more than 85% of the users appreciated the service. In a sign that the service operates on a recurring basis, some 51% of all collective taxi rides had been booked “within 40 minutes of time of passage.”
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