Pilot project shuttling employees to work

[attach]5676[/attach]Workers on Consumers Road are enjoying an easier commute — at least for now.

Due to a unique pilot project, employees and guests at some companies are now able to take a free shuttle service that whisks them through the business park and takes them to the Don Mills subway station at Fairview Mall.

The trial run of this initiative was headed by Smart Commute North Toronto Vaughan, an organization partnered with Metrolinx and various Ontario municipalities that works to explore non-traditional commuting options. Its executive director, Brian Shifman, said organizing the shuttle through Consumers Road was not an easy task.

“This is the first shuttle in Toronto that works with multiple players in multiple locations,” he said. “It was quite complicated to coordinate in terms of cost-sharing and shuttle schedule.”

The costs of operating the shuttle are supported by Smart Commute, Metrolinx, the City of Toronto and the businesses involved. The pilot project began on Feb. 1 and will run until the end of April, but may be extended indefinitely mid-month.

“What I think is great about the shuttle is it provides another fast, free (for riders) alternative to the local subway station,” Shifman said. “It gives people a travel option because this area is difficult for employees to get to.”

The shuttle starts at 7:30 a.m., picking up commuters at Fairview Mall. Several other shuttle services for individual companies pick up employees at the same location. The Smart Commute shuttle then heads to Consumers Road where it drops employees off at Enbridge, Microskills, Days Inn and then Morrison Hershfield and Dillon Consulting before heading back to Fairview Mall. The round trip takes about 30 minutes and makes almost 20 runs per day during the morning, lunch and after work periods.

Shifman said the lunch service is provided to allow employees of participating businesses to get to the mall quickly during the lunch hour and further encourage them to leave their vehicles at home.

An employee at Dillon Consulting, Allen Benson, spoke to the Town Crier on his lunch break while taking the bus to Fairview Mall. He said he used to walk from Don Mills station or take the TTC bus to work before the shuttle service started and that without it he wouldn’t consider heading to the mall for lunch.

“I use it quite frequently,” he said. “It’s very convenient especially when you’re using the subway to get to and from work all the time.”

According to Shifman, the shuttle saw more than 1,000 riders in its first month and he added that satisfaction surveys handed out at the end of that month been returned with positive comments and results. Since it began, he said, other businesses have expressed interest in jumping on board and he urged any other businesses that are interested to contact Smart Commute.

“They understand that transportation has a big impact on employee retention and recruitment,” he said of the currently involved and interested companies. “Anytime you can help someone get to work faster and more efficiently it’s going to increase productivity.”