Calgary Transit ridership is up, officials said Thursday. Who knows? Maybe it’s because of Ricardo Hoar.
He’s the Mount Royal College computer science instructor whose transit website gets thousands of hits per day. “Public transit in Calgary is actually quite good,” says Hoar. “The problem is finding out information about the schedules.” Last year, Hoar won the Petro Canada Young Innovator Award to study improved transit information.
Hoar, 29, doesn’t own a car. And if you really must know, he doesn’t even have a driver’s licence. Each day, Hoar takes the C-Train and a bus from Somerset, on the southern limits. So he has about two hours a day to imagine how Calgary Transit could be better.
“If it’s snowing and I’m in my office, I want to know should I go outside, is the bus coming?”
His team examined weaknesses with the Calgary Transit site. For instance, its search engine doesn’t recognize cross streets very well, and the schedules don’t tell you which buses have bike racks.
The city site also uses dashes instead of route times on schedules. Yet a dash can mean two things: A bus doesn’t stop there at all, or that there’s no set time for the stop and the driver will get there as soon as he can. That’s just hard to figure out.
Hoar’s motivation is unwavering. “I want to empower people with good transit information.” His reconceived site averages 25,000 hits per day. (http://transit.mtroyal.ca)
Hoar uses Google Maps to show where buses and trains are supposed to be at any given moment. (He can’t yet tell you if they are delayed — but some of his followers are advocating for a GPS system.)
The mobile version of the site is the highlight, users say. Bookmark your stop number then go to your BlackBerry or mobile browser, refresh, and see when the next train or bus is coming.