The town's on-demand transit service came under fire from town councillor Morgan Nagel at council's Mar. 20 committee-of-the-whole meeting.
He believes Cochrane On-Demand Local Transit (COLT) has not been a success story, in contrast to a couple of other views and data presented.
"I would like to have a serious conversation about making big changes to COLT at some point, of finding a way to get rid of COLT or do fixed routes," said Nagel. "I just want to speak my truth that I don't think COLT is very successful."
He says the data showing the buses have shared rides 80 per cent of the time isn't that impressive.
"It doesn't seem very good to me for a bus service because that means only 80 per cent of the time it has more than one person. To me, a successful bus service has like 10 people on it.
He says if it's just a couple of people on the bus, maybe an Uber could do the job.
"If we're gonna have this service where one or two people, sometimes three people are in these huge buses driving around, why don't we just have a bunch of small smart cars, Teslas, or something?"
Community Services director Mitchell Hamm disagreed on both counts.
"Objectively, our system is exceptional on the basis of statistical data, ridership, ratings, and all of the information that comes along with it, objectively exceptional," he responded.
Challenged as to whether it's competitive with Uber and costs the town less than $15 per ride, Hamm answered a definitive yes.
"Based off of subsidization, based on life-cycling, based on all the information that we have I would say we're sub-$15 per ride."
Councillor Susan Flowers saw things in a much different light than Nagel.
"It seems to me that one of our biggest problems is it's being overused, so there are more rides than we thought there were going to be when we first set it up," said Flowers. "I can't imagine a city of this size not having some kind of bus system, so we just need to make it better so we get fewer complaints and that it works for more people."
She said those complaints included not being able to secure a booking and giving up out of frustration, not enough service on weekends and holidays for people depending upon COLT to get to work, and she's also heard complaints about the app. She said she's heard great things about the drivers.
The true purpose of last night's presentation was to provide an update on the service's third year of operation and prepare council for an in-depth discussion on future delivery service considerations sometime in late April, or early May.
Last year marked the highest system usage and productivity since COLT's launch in October 2019. There were 4.71 passengers per vehicle hour and shared rides 80 per cent of the time a jump from 69 per cent last year.
The average monthly and weekday ridership was the highest the system has seen, at 4,019 and 181 riders respectively. Monthly ridership increased to 4,019 from 2,777 last year and the average weekday ridership was 181, up from 124.
Service levels are on track to the highest since the system launch, at 64 vehicle service hours per weekday versus 39.25 for most of 2022. This higher service has been planned since August 2022, now achievable due to full driver staffing, and is expected to decrease riders failing to be allocated buses.
Heightened service levels are also reflected in the max number of serving buses during peak hours, at six versus three in 2022.
Rider satisfaction with the system has overall been positive. For passengers who were able to secure rides, COLT is given an overall ride rating of 4.7/5.