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Automated shuttle pilot to launch in June

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Durham Region Transit is set to start a one-year automated shuttle pilot in June.

The pilot will be in partnership with the Town of Whitby, SmartCone Technologies Inc., Pacific Western Transportation, and the Ontario Centres for Excellence.

Overall the pilot is set to cost $2.2 million to be funded by the partners in the project, with DRT contributing $284,119 in shuttle service hours.

According to a report presented to Durham’s transit executive committee, the preferred area for the pilot is the Port Whitby area, just south of the Whitby GO Station. The region expects demand in the area to be appropriate for a vehicle which will have a maximum of 12 occupants.

The route will include a six km loop beginning and ending at the GO station, with a mix of stops in residential, commercial, and recreational areas.

The route will head south on Henry Street, curving eastward before turning south on Brock Street, continuing on as it becomes Water Street before heading east. It will then travel north on South Blair Street before turning west on Watson Street, where it will take Watson west across Victoria Street, then turning north on Henry back to the station.

If Brock Street is closed due to flooding or other reasons during the pilot, an alternate route heading east on Watson Street and south on South Blair Street, with a turnaround on Water Street, will be used.

The shuttle will operate between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays and weekends.

Improvements will be made to existing stops on the route, while new alternative stops will also be installed, according to the report.

Several councillors expressed their excitement for the project at the meeting.

“I hope that we’re the first passengers to be on it, because I think it would be really cool to be on it,” said Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter.

Carter said he sees a “huge opportunity” to help Durham’s high needs individuals, and Jamie Austin, DRT’s deputy general manager, said the agency is open to assessing where the shuttles reach.

Scugog Mayor Bobbie Drew was also supportive of the project, asking if there will be an attendant on the automated shuttle at all times during the pilot and if it is fully implemented.

According to Austin the plan is to have a transit employee on the bus at all times, with no plans to change that if the shuttle becomes a full-time service.

“At this time, there’s no plan to remove the attendant from the vehicle,” said Austin.