Transportation company Wroute Inc. has suspended all operations in the face of lower than anticipated ridership.
“Essentially it became apparent that the marketplace was just not present,” president Jason Hammond said Friday. Thursday was the eight-month-old company’s last day of service.
“In the end, while we had some dedicated regulars, we did not have the volume of passengers necessary to allow the company to be financially viable in the long term,” Hammond said.
Hammond said he believed that the number of people travelling between Waterloo Region, Guelph and beyond on a daily basis — coupled with the fact that schedules for intercity public transportation can be infrequent or not ideal — meant Wroute’s scheduled service would meet a need.
And that’s why the struggle to grow ridership came as a bit of a surprise, he said. “That was a known problem we were looking to solve.”
I don’t know what the sweet spot for frequency actually is, and the changing nature of work schedules is going to make that even harder to sort out over time. Obviously right now you can still hit the regular morning and afternoon rush periods and that’s not going to change any time soon, but with more and more people working flexible schedules that don’t start and end at regular intervals, how do you draw the line between accounting for that and wasting money?
Another thing to consider is the existence of Uber. Depending on the nature of your trip and the number of people with you, the Wroute model doesn’t always make sense. If you’re always traveling alone it generally does, but things fall apart fairly quickly if not.
Getting from the Fairview Mall area of Kitchener into Guelph or vice versa in an Uber has cost about $45 every time I’ve done it. A Wroute trip of the same distance was $20 per person, unless that changed after Carin and I used it. But using my numbers, the moment your group has more than two people in it you’re financially better off in an Uber, and that’s before we take into account the convenience factor.
An Uber will pick you up where you are and deposit you where you want to be. You don’t have to walk around a city possibly late at night on one end looking for your ride and then be forced to get yourself the rest of the way home even later when the Wroute drops you off at the designated spot. So even when there are only two of you and the cost is essentially a wash, any extra might still be worth eating for the sake of door to door service. I know it was for us. We had a very nice Wroute experience heading to Guelph in the daytime, but when a decent October day became a chilly October night and it was time to head back to Kitchener after hours and hours of fun, wandering through downtown again was just not something we wanted to do. And we didn’t, because we didn’t have to. And it only cost each of us $2.50 more than Wroute would have to go right home.
It’s too bad it didn’t work out and I hope somebody can eventually give it another go, but it’s going to be tough sledding for whomever decides to take it on.