Coming soon: no more mystery about when next bus arrives

Real-time technology that tracks the next buses due at B.C. Transit stops is expected to come onstream within 18 months, Greater Victoria Transit Commission chairwoman Susan Brice said Tuesday.

The new system uses GPS and will calculate bus arrival times based on the speed and location of buses. Riders currently have to rely on schedules and face the risk of missing a bus if it’s off schedule due to traffic jams or weather conditions.

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“After we roll this project out, you will be able to sit in a café, the comfort of your home or a bus stop and know exactly when the bus is expected to arrive at your chosen stop,” said Christy Ridout, director of corporate and strategic planning.

“It will significantly improve travel planning and cut down on customer wait times.”

Riders will be able to pinpoint arrival and departure times via their smartphones and the B.C. Transit website. Times will also appear on signs at major stops, such as the University of Victoria, where many routes converge.

Brice acknowledged the frustration of riders left in the dark about whether they’ve just missed a bus and when the next one is coming. “Our customers are connected through technology in all aspects of their lives. And they fully expect their transit experience to be the same.”

Last year, passengers took nearly 26 million trips on Greater Victoria transit.

The commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a memorandum of understanding to spend $329,000 annually for the next five years on the real-time system.

That’s only 17 per cent of the estimated $1.94-million annual cost. Most of the rest will come from $160 million in federal-provincial grants announced for transit in B.C. in June.

A request for proposals from vendors is expected to go out in January, Brice said.

After five years, Victoria Regional Transit expects to pay about $184,000 in operating costs for the technology. In 2015-16, public transit in Greater Victoria cost $121.6 million to run.

Brice, who also sits on Saanich council and the Capital Regional District board, said she does not use public transit frequently to get around. “Meeting my responsibilities does not generally lend itself to that mode of travel.”

In preparation for the project, counterparts using a real-time system were contacted in Vancouver, York and Brampton, Ont., Grande Prairie, Alta., and Longview, Washington.

“We have also had extensive discussions with the vendor community, including interviews and product demonstrations to assist us in the development of our functional specifications for the [request for proposals],” Ridout said in an email.

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