Cities across Canada are trying to boost public transit use by tackling one of the biggest frustrations for riders, the interminable wait at a bus stop wondering when the heck that bus will come.
Municipal transit services are turning to text-messaging systems, apps for mobile devices and even alerts for your desktop to make riding a bus, train or subway more predictable and user-friendly.
Winnipeg is on the leading edge, using global positioning software on all its buses to provide real-time information across multiple platforms. With a quick click on a computer or mobile device, you can see when your bus will arrive — and not the scheduled time, but an up-to-the-minute estimate based on its current position and traffic volumes.
Winnipeg has spent more than $4 million on its information system, which includes a program called BusGadget. Designed for a home or office computer, the program lets users monitor one or more bus stops to see when upcoming buses are due.
Toronto’s transit authority has also moved to provide real-time arrival information through GPS locators on its buses. The system went online last month through a third-party website. Users can also send a text that includes their bus-stop number and get a message back that outlines the arrival times of upcoming buses.
The Toronto Transit Commission doesn’t have the type of desktop software that Winnipeg does to remind users of upcoming buses, but it is allowing software developers to access its data and come up with their own programs.
Other cities, such as Edmonton and Montreal, have plans to add GPS technology.