Online survey shows demand for ride-sharing, increased bus service

Transportation is a challenge on the Sunshine Coast and people see more frequent buses and ride-hailing options as possible solutions, according to results from a recent online survey.

Nearly 200 people responded to the survey, conducted by Voice Lab, a group looking at economic opportunities for youth and which is supported by the Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Organization (SCREDO).

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Voice Lab shared a representative sample of the results with Coast Reporter.

The goal of the survey was to identify gaps in the transportation system on the Sunshine Coast and to determine the viability of an on-demand transportation service.

Results show that “transportation is a challenge” for just over half of the respondents, who live from Egmont to Langdale.

The overwhelming majority, about 87 per cent, owned a vehicle and most people, about 61 per cent, don’t use public transportation.

Those that do use public transportation identified evening social events and getting to the Langdale ferry terminal as the trips “most challenging to take.”

About three-quarters of respondents said current public transit options prevent them from participating in community and social events and don’t allow them to “take care of errands, appointments, and other infrequent but important tasks.” About 66 percent said the current options aren’t sufficient to commute to work.

The two most popular solutions identified by respondents were more frequent bus service (21 per cent) and an Uber ride-hailing service for the Sunshine Coast (17 per cent). Taxis and shuttle services were the least popular options, though 34 per cent opted for a combination of taxis, shuttles, more frequent buses and ride-hailing.

When asked how much they would be willing to pay for a trip between Gibsons and Sechelt, most respondents chose between $2 and $5.

Another issue raised by the survey was the prevalence of drunk driving. Nearly 40 per cent of people surveyed said they had either driven home under the influence, or been driven by someone under the influence of alcohol.

Voice Lab’s mandate is to identify economic development projects on the Sunshine Coast that serve people under the age of 40. Research into transportation solutions was the group’s first project since it took over from its precursor, Voice on the Coast, last December. 

Voice Lab chair Ryan Czech said transportation was an ideal first project since they expected there could be “achievable, implementable solutions.”

Those solutions turned out to be elusive.

Their research and survey results found that certain underlying conditions on the Sunshine Coast, such as a rural, low-density population spread over a large geographic expanse, make options such as public transportation and ride-sharing services “difficult to implement.”

“For the ride-sharing as well, based on the legislation and based on the density of people who would be using the service out here, our brief assessment was that ride-sharing financially, working under the current legislation, might not be a super effective tool for solving the transportation crisis,” said Czech, adding that ride-sharing could include services such as Uber or carpooling.

Czech expects Voice Lab to prepare a report on their findings, which could be available to local governments and other groups, and will refocus their resources on other topics.

“We weren’t surprised. I don’t think anyone on the board was surprised. There was definitely some disappointment. If the issues were easy, some of them would have been solved by now,” said Czech.

The survey comes as the province gears up to allow the introduction of ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber, with the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) set to begin accepting applications Sept. 3. In mid-August, ride-hailing service company Lyft announced its intentions to operate in Vancouver, but the requirement for drivers to have a Class 4 licence could pose a barrier for offering service in other parts of the province.

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