Phase One: Research
As outlined in the OpenTransit whitepaper, 2020 will be primarily focused on research, which will be led by OCAD University under the direction of Dr. Robert Luke. Supported by a grant from the Canadian Government, our initial research will include in-person interviews with residents and city officials in communities where ridesharing is available and where it is not, developing a research thesis that will inform the platform prototyping to follow.
Municipal transit is seen as necessary 'public good' infrastructure that all municipalities above a certain size must provide. We contend that for small and mid-size municipalities, existing transit tools - consisting almost exclusively of scheduled, fixed-route buses - is a 'transport of last resort' that is not only impractical for most residents, but also incurs a high unit cost: the inclusive per-ride cost factoring in the rider fare, operating expenses and government subsidies. The partnership between Uber and the municipality of Innisfil has validated a new option for municipalities to provide public transit. However relying on a for-profit company to provide a public good presents its own economic challenges.
This is the opportunity we are exploring. We are studying what local mobility options are available, how widely they are utilized (and why), and the economics of local transit systems to quantify the inclusive 'per-ride' cost of fixed route bus service.
An additional focus of our research are the public perceptions, interest and concerns about ridesharing as a public transit tool as well as understanding the operational, legal and financial implications for municipalities of a city-run ride sharing service. Finally, as outlined in our whitepaper, we will explore and test the hypothesis that the OpenTransit platform can be leveraged to provide significant ancillary benefits in the form of local tech jobs, improved digital access to services beyond transit, and provide smaller municipalities with opportunities for economic development and climate change mitigation at a local level.
We have secured partnerships with a number of academic, private sector and not-for-profit organizations (see our Partners page for a current list) and are looking to develop additional relationships in the areas of digital skills development, smart cities initiatives and improving digital services. For organizations with little presence outside of urban areas, OpenTransit and OpenLocal's intention to directly serve rural communities provides opportunities to promote digital literacy and quality of life initiatives on communities that may otherwise be difficult to reach.