First ride: New on-demand transit vans are an affordable, easy, and safe way to travel locally

West Niagara's new on-demand transit system is an affordable, easy, and safe way to travel Kay Walker from Niagara Info rides in an NRT Transit van. Photo credit: Andy Walker

Safe, affordable, and easy. That’s the experience you can expect when you take NRT OnDemand’s new ride-share service in West Niagara.

Niagara Region Transit launched its new on-demand transit service and Niagara Info tested it to give residents the inside scoop.

The service is called NRT OnDemand, works in a similar way as other popular ride apps, such as Uber or Lyft. Users can simply book a ride using the NRT OnDemand app available for Android and iOS smartphones.

The fare for inter-municipal trips, including connections to St. Catharines, Welland, and Port Colborne is $6. The intra-municipal fares for riders in Grimsby, Lincoln, and Pelham is $3. 

What differentiates NRT OnDemand from other well-known apps is that it’s a shared transit solution. Riders heading to nearby destinations travel together. Its also run by Niagara Region Transit so riders can expect a a professional service with NRT vans and drivers.

The NRT OnDemand Experience

To use the NRT OnDemand service, users must first download the iOS or Android app, mobile app. Riders without a smartphone can call 289-302-2172 to book a ride.

The app prompts new users for their basic information including their names, email addresses, phone numbers, and a credit card to put on file to pay for trips.

To add more than one rider to a trip a traveler must click the + icon when setting their pickup and drop off destinations

To book a trip, a passenger enters their pickup and drop-off locations in the app. If either address is unknown the app uses destination tracking and can call up many local business addresses by entering their names. Riders can also book multiple travellers. For example, today, I took with me my 6 year old son.

A passenger simply needs to click a + icon to add additional riders for pickup.

Once a ride is booked, Via’s advanced technology matches multiple passengers headed in the same direction into one of 10 high-capacity vehicles and directs passengers to a nearby corner, or virtual bus stop. In my case the van stopped in front of my home on West Main Street.

Riders can easily track the location of their ride once they’ve confirmed pickup so they know their whereabouts and the estimated wait time.

All vehicles have a clear plexiglass partition that’s been installed between the driver and passengers.

NRT OnDemand does not have a built-in tipping system like many other ride apps. Passengers that want to renumerate their driver for a great job can’t do it on the app. You’ll need to use cash.

NRT OnDemand follows social distancing measures. All vehicles have a clear plexiglass partition that’s been installed between the driver and passengers. In addition, vehicles are cleaned thoroughly and frequently by the Niagara Transit Region. This Niagara Info reporter found the NRT OnDemand van to be exceptionally clean, spacious, and safe.

NRT OnDemand service is available Monday to Saturday from 7 am to 10 pm. Both wheelchair-accessible vehicles and vehicles equipped with bicycle racks are available to riders.

I would 100% recommended it to anyone needs fast, efficient and safe local travel. It’s better than a taxi, or Uber or Lyft any day.