Innovation in Local Government | Jason Reynar | TEDxCollingwood



when I say local government what is the first thing that comes to mind shut it out corruption any others slow yes what about innovation no we must think that innovation is where our local government is where innovation goes to die is that fair well I want you to think about this question as I tell you the story about one small town that decided to use ride-sharing to power its public transit system so about two years ago I was driving along one of our rural roads and I saw this woman walking along on the the dirt shoulder and I you know your mind sometimes reminds you of things I think I had seen her before walking in the same direction around the same time so this time I pulled over and I said would you like a ride and she said yeah I'd really appreciate that I'm on my way to my local grocery store for my four-hour shift so I should sir hop in turns out Joanne does this three or four times a week she can't drive because her car's broken down she doesn't have a bike and there's no local bus in town so she walks seven kilometres four miles to work for a four hour shift and back again our town is about the size of Mississauga so it's quite large but it only has 36,000 people so it's fairly spread out when I got to work I couldn't get Joanne's predicament out of my mind how could we connect these cars that are whipping up and down our rural roads with the people that need to get from point A to point B so I put a challenge to our team I said guys gals we got to do something about this what can we do and of course our first thought was well will reintroduce hitchhiking worked in the 60s you know you can see the slogan peace love and public transit we sort of thought it maybe wasn't gonna be the safest way of traveling so then we kept doing some research and some brainstorming and of course we figured out that ride-sharing was already connecting the demand for a ride with the cars that were going in the same direction so shortly after the town of Innisfail Ontario Canada launched what we understand to be a global first a public transit system actually powered by uber we call it in a still transit so how does it work well you open up your spot you take out your smartphone you put in an address of where you want to go and the the app knows that you're within the town so it actually gives you the Innisfil transit option on your phone really simple ahead of the uberx you click confirm' Innisfil transit you pay your $3 for your credit card or a prepaid uber card and you travel to your destination door-to-door in comfort and sometimes in style pretty simple right then once a month uber sends us a bill sends the town of bill and the bill is our subsidy so we write a cheque to burr and that's it pretty simple I so but when I talk to people about this you know the first there's lots of concerns that come up and people say well is it really better than traditional transit so I want you to come with a journey come on a journey with me and let's compare the two systems we're gonna use this really sophisticated chart to keep track of which system is better based on the criteria that we apply ok ready all right let's talk about affordability so from a user perspective in traditional transit you'd pay sort of 2 to 3 bucks to get around town in Innisfil transit you pay 3 to 5 dollars to go to our key destinations those are things like the library the recreation center and everywhere else you get a $5 discount off the standard uberx price so from an affordability perspective I think Innisfil transit is pretty close but traditional transit probably still kind of gets the point there from a convenience perspective which one's better well in traditional transit you have service every 30 minutes or so there's limited number of routes there's a couple of bus stops you probably travel indirectly to get to where you want to go right sometimes you have to transfer one or two times well with Innisfil transit you have the power of transit in your pocket on demand real time you wait about an average of less than 10 minutes for the car to show up to your door and then you travel to your destination pretty convenient right be hard to get more convenient I think than Innisfil transit what about from an accessibility perspective well in in traditional transit hopefully you have a fully accessible bus that can accommodate all kinds of mobility challenges in Innisfil transit the town partnered with a taxi company that actually has fully accessible vehicles so you also get that accessibility for mobility perspective but accessibility is not only about physical challenges it's also about how you access the system so what happens if you don't have a smart phone well in the initial transits case you call the town and the customer service department can book you a ride once you set up an account with them so from an accessibility perspective I think Innisfil transit takes it as well what about from a subsidy perspective well in traditional transit to have a north-south east-west route with two buses it was gonna cost the town about six hundred thousand dollars a year in Innisfil transit the first year subsidy was a hundred and fifty thousand dollars now I gotta take a little sidebar here in government we don't ask ourselves very often what happens if we succeed beyond our wildest imagination it is that is not it's not something we talk about very often or consider but in this case think about this for a minute we launched it we're into our second year now we have 7500 rides happening every month next year we're projecting 90,000 rides in Innisfail through Innisfail transit so our subsidy has grown it's now 500 thousand dollars but it still it's still cheaper than traditional transit but look at the system you get what about data this is always a concern right when we talk about public-private partnerships who owns the data where's the data where is it transferred to so in traditional transit you know small transit systems have limited data especially limited data that you can do anything with in real time with Innisfil transit we actually have what I like to call the power of Silicon Valley analytics with our friends at uber so they're doing fraud detection they're responding to demands in real time so that we can deploy more vehicles if we need to even coming in from outside of the municipality into Innisfail to date we've had 1,400 unique drivers working in Ennis ville in our small town so from a data perspective I think it's pretty cool and you know still transit gets that point to what about from an environmental perspective well look there's no doubt that if you have a full bus that's the most effective from an environmental perspective the problem is how many of you live in small towns where you see the bus going by and there's almost nobody in it it's quite a common problem so in Innisfil transit we encourage carp or sorry ride pooling and this is where you actually share your ride with somebody else not just the driver now we're only at about 10% of our rides that are pooling right now but we're trying we're working with uber to try to increase that number because we think those kind of social collisions are actually really important they help create in a small town sort of a get to know your neighbor kind of opportunity because you might not talk to somebody on a bus across the the hallway but you might talk to somebody who's sitting next to you in your Innisfil trans right but overall from an environmental perspective let's call it even in our oversimplified discussion today so what do you think overall in as'll transits not bad eh it's meeting our needs in the town we think today definitely better than traditional transit so if that's true how do we apply this thinking to other areas of local government well I think it starts by trying to raise the bar of what we expect from government you know what if we actually imagined government iterating and piloting and testing creative solutions what if we expected innovation as a need to have in local government rather than a nice-to-have well three things would have to happen I think to make this possible the first is ladies and gentlemen we need to be more forgiving you know the truth is we live in a political environment today where if somebody makes a mistake I mean you might as well disconnect from social media for fear of the Twitterverse wrath that's going to come down on you and it's probably 12 people but it feels like a lot more you know innovation sometimes means failure so we have to get comfortable with that we have to fail fast and learn and forgive secondly we need to do more research and development in government the private sector does a really good job of this but in government we're still learning how to do it and you know innovation doesn't usually come from a lightning bolt idea it usually is born out of really hard work with interdisciplinary minds working together to try to solve a difficult intractable problem that's not free third and perhaps most complicated is I think we need to reimagine the mission of local government you know we've had the mission and local government of trying to be the best place to live work and play it's a great goal but it's hard to measure if you're succeeding I think we actually have to reimagine what the mission looks like you know to take one small example what if our mission at local government looked more like the Tesla mission accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy Tesla's mission isn't they make a nice car that's really good to go to work home and the soccer field with it's actionable its bold it actually improves quality of life what if our local governments mission actually looked more like this accelerate local governments transition from delivering basic services to delivering tangible life improvements if you think of the Innisfil transit example you know we were able to give people back time by dramatically reducing their travel time within the town we were able to give them back money by having flat fees and capping the tax rate or the tax subsidy that would go into the system we were also able to facilitate health by getting people to the doctor getting people to the grocery store to have fresh food overall we're hoping that we actually increased people's happiness maybe they were able to get to their lover you know and didn't have another way you know the truth is if we use this kind of a mission for our local government we expect them to give us back time and money and facilitate our health our wellness and our happiness what would that look like let's make local government the place where innovation goes to thrive not to die thank you [Applause] you

2 Comments

  1. Fiona said:

    I applaud Jason Reynar for coming up with this idea, 'Innovation in Local Government'. I live in Markham, Ontario. I'd like this system to be used to help Senior Citizens in all the ways Jason Reynar suggests above. I, as a Senior, would love to be able to access Uber to drive me where I need to go, especially on freezing cold, icy days when I do not feel safe driving or at night, when like a lot of seniors, I suffer from night blindness. This system would also help house bound seniors socialize with other seniors in a most affordable way. I really do hope Markham, Ontario adopts Jason Reynar's innovative idea.

    May 22, 2019
    Reply
  2. Lorcan Flynn said:

    This talk could have been given in German about our local govt. But I suppose it could apply to any local government anywhere

    May 22, 2019
    Reply

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