The city of Bromont has authorized the MRC of Brome-Missisquoi to launch a third call for tenders for its public shuttle bus system. The authorization was granted at a special meeting of council on Aug. 8.
The shuttle service – a single line running on a downtown loop – would be the first phase of the multimodal transit system, including commuter shuttle, car-sharing and taxi-on-demand services, that the city hopes to roll out by 2024.
After an encouraging summer 2021 pilot project, it was initially hoped that the public shuttle service would be operational on weekends as early as this summer. However, an initial call for tenders earlier this year resulted in no bids, and a second call resulted in a single private contract which “did not even reach the level of public consultation,” as Mayor Louis Villeneuve explained at the council meeting. “The costs kept rising and it eventually made no sense,” he said. He added that the bus service will be “the spinal cord and the nerve centre” of the larger transit system, which will be “adapted to the needs of residents of rural and semi-rural communities like our own.”
Pierre Vinet is a volunteer member of the city’s sustainable mobility committee, which has been deeply involved in the planning of the project. He said the new call for tenders “would have an impact on the timeline and launch date [of the bus service] but delaying the project for a few months is not a catastrophe.”
Vinet said previous calls for tenders ran up against difficulties caused by the labour shortage and by uncertainty around a provincial subsidy for electric vehicles. “We were waiting for a new [provincial] subsidy for electric buses, and when we didn’t have any news of it, we decided to put out a one-year call for tenders [while we waited],” said Vinet. “Transporters decided that was too short-term,” Vinet said. In late April, the provincial transport ministry announced the Ecobus subsidy program, which will assist municipalities like Bromont which are developing transit systems with electric buses.
The MRC is expected to meet and approve a call for tenders in mid-August, for transporters willing to operate the fixed-loop shuttle service for a five-year period. The winning bid will be subject to approval by city council. Vinet said the winner might be known as early as October, with the first riders boarding buses shortly after the winter holidays.
Vinet previously told the BCN that the next phase of MOBI would involve a taxi-on-demand service similar to the one in Cowansville, scheduled to begin in late 2022, followed by a commuter transport service in collaboration with major employers and a car-sharing program. He said the delayed bus service rollout may cause slight delays in the rollout of the other elements of the program.
At the Aug. 8 council meeting, members also asked the MRC to carry out a demand simulation for the future taxi-on-demand service. The simulation “will allow the city, in collaboration with the MRC, to evaluate the financial impact of on-demand transit,” said Villeneuve.
The city also intends to hold a public consultation about the transit project – most likely in September, according to Vinet.
“The communication on this project has maybe not been perfect up to this point,” Villeneuve said. “We’re not going to go ahead with a project that citizens don’t want.”