BC Transit will introduce GPS-tracking technology to its bus fleets in Whistler, Squamish and five other communities this summer.
Last week, the Crown corporation unveiled NextRide, which uses "automatic vehicle location" to provide real-time data on a bus' location and predicted arrival time at a given stop. It's expected to roll out next month in Nanaimo, before the Comox Valley in June, followed by Whistler and Squamish. It will also be introduced in Kamloops, Kelowna and Victoria later this year.
"These service upgrades will be hugely helpful for people who already ride the bus, and a great incentive for more people to start," said transportation minister Claire Trevena in a release.
Commuters using NextRide will access BC Transit's "responsive website," explained communications manager Jonathon Dyck, enabling passengers to plan their trips from an internet-connected mobile device or desktop. It will also send out push alerts notifying riders of detours, accidents and other anticipated delays.
Another new feature being added to the fleet is "automated vehicle announcers" that will announce the next stop over loudspeakers, as well as on a digital board. Select major bus terminals will also have boards installed to visually display expected arrival times.
Whistler's Nicole Salter, a regular transit user, said the new technology should make getting around the resort much more convenient.
"I think the GPS feature being added this summer is going to be super helpful, especially for those of us who depend on buses to get us around," she said. "There have been way too many times that I've had to call my work apologizing that I'm going to be late for the millionth time because the bus hasn't shown up due to weather conditions."
Whistler is already serviced by a third-party app, Transit, which utilizes posted bus schedules to predict anticipated arrival times; unlike NextRide, however, the app does not incorporate GPS technology to pinpoint a bus' specific location, although Dyck noted that BC Transit plans to provide its geo-locating data at no cost to third-party developers.
Strategic Mapping, Inc. has been contracted to install and monitor NextRide. The Toronto-based company already works with several major transit systems, including New York City Transit and the Toronto Transit Commission.
Funding for this project comes from Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, an initiative announced in 2016 that sees costs divided between federal (50 per cent), provincial (33 per cent) and municipal governments (17 per cent). The estimated cost of introducing NextRide to the seven communities this summer is $6.74 million.