Arnprior's growing population spurs Lyft's expansion to Ottawa Valley

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Rob Woodbridge (centre), Lyft’s General Manager for Ottawa, with Chief Administrative Officer Robin Paquette and Mayor Walter Stack. Photo via Lyft

The need to increase transportation options within a growing community played a big role in Lyft’s expansion of service to Arnprior, the ride-sharing service’s Ottawa general manager said Tuesday.

“The town is spreading out, there is now an east and a west and a north and a south,” said Rob Woodbridge. “They are building condos and homes on the fringes of the town and people still need to get around.”  

This, he said, is the “story that’s getting lost in the shuffle” as local media pick up on Lyft’s announcement, which Woodbridge made at the Town of Arnprior council meeting Monday evening.

Intercity user patterns did play some part in Lyft’s decision to choose Arnprior as its first community in Eastern Ontario beyond the City of Ottawa’s rural border. For example, the company’s market research indicated how a user might take a Lyft from the Ottawa International Airport to Arnprior, but not have any local Lyft service to travel from the town to the airport to catch a flight.

But that’s only part of the story. With more than 9,000 residents, Arnprior is bucking the trend in many Eastern Ontario communities outside of Ottawa that are experiencing stagnant population growth. Between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, the town’s population grew by 8.4 per cent. The widening of Highway 417, which has made commuting to work in Ottawa quicker and more convenient, is considered a key factor.   

Arnprior, however, still lacks any local public transportation. Woodbridge also noted parking bans make it difficult to take advantage of downtown events in winter and challenges posed by a lack of on-site parking for summer fairs and festivals – visitors must often park far away in a field and be shuttled to the event.

These small-town growing pains, he said, makes Arnprior “perfectly suited for a ride share to be there and complement how people get around.”

Arnprior’s mayor and town council obviously agreed. In fact, when Woodbridge approached them about extending Lyft service, bringing in new alternate transportation options was already on the town’s strategic plan.

“Not only are we thrilled to welcome a new business to our community, but are also fortunate that it assists us in providing affordable transportation to our residents and visitors alike,” Mayor Walter Stack said in a statement.

Lyft’s service will be in addition to the three taxi companies that already serve the town.

“It was a match made in heaven,” Woodbridge said. “A special thanks goes to Mayor Stack. I am sure council worked through hoops to get us into Arnprior and working with them has been remarkable.”

Concurrent with the expansion to Arnprior, Lyft has also expanded its service within Ottawa to provide full coverage to the city’s rural boundary.

Local Lyft stats

  • 56 per cent of riders don’t own or lease a personal vehicle
  • 44 per cent use Lyft to get to and from public transit
  • 59 per cent use Lyft to get to the airport