Technology allows transit riders to check bus arrival times in Victoria


Technology allows transit riders to check bus arrival times in Victoria

Bus riders can now check their computers and phones to see if they have time to get a coffee before the bus arrives.

NextRide real-time technology, which tracks bus locations and predicts arrival times, was introduced Thursday for all of the 294 buses run by the Victoria Regional Transit System.

NextRide is internet-based and allows bus riders to plan their trips using smartphones or desktop devices.

Susan Brice, who chairs the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, said NextRide will increase the attractiveness of bus travel. “When residents see continuous improvements in technology and infrastructure, like the recent bus-lane expansion, we’re more likely to attract new ridership,” she said. “When we attract new customers, we’re taking more vehicles off the road and seeing environmental benefits.”

The tracking system cost $11,500 per bus. Overall cost of the B.C. Transit project is $6.72 million for seven B.C. communities, including Nanaimo, which got NextRide in May 2018, followed by Comox, Whistler, Squamish, Kamloops and Kelowna.

Money for the project was announced in 2016 by the federal and provincial governments through the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.

Christy Ridout, B.C. Transit’s vice-president of business development, said people now expect information at their fingertips, noting that more than 80 per cent of those who go to bctransit.com do so from a smartphone or tablet.

“The use of smartphones and tablets is increasing exponentially,” she said. “So NextRide is just going to be one more tool for our customers. It’s going to give them the information they need immediately.”

NextRide can also tell people if a bus is full, Ridout said, and gives drivers a display unit to improve communication with dispatchers.

“Dispatch can plan more effectively for road detours, accidents and also get information back out to our customers in a more timely manner.”

The system has an automatic passenger-counting mechanism for buses that will help with planning and scheduling, she said.

Brice said NextRide also has features such as audible stop announcements and screens showing street names for the next stop.

Making such improvements is important, since public transit is a critical component to a healthy community, Brice said.

Other innovative technology will be evaluated for possible future use, Ridout said.

“We know that technology is evolving rapidly, especially in the transit industry.”

Access NextRide at bctransit.com/nextride. Location data from the system is also available on a variety of apps that provide transit information.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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