Nanaimo buses will be the first to launch NextRide technology. BLACK PRESS FILE PHOTO

Nanaimo buses first to get new technology

NextRide technology will help riders pinpoint where buses are and predicted arrival times

Nanaimo transit takers can find out where buses are and when they’re predicted to arrive with new real-time technology.

Nanaimo will be the first of seven B.C. communities to get NextRide, technology that uses automatic vehicle location to give people real-time information like the location of buses.

B.C. Transit announced today that Nanaimo will see the full launch of services in May, followed by the Comox Valley in June, then Squamish, Whistler, Kamloops, Kelowna and Victoria.

The new features are designed to make B.C. Transit accessible to all users, a press release says.

Brandon Miller, the regional district’s superintendent of fleet and transit service delivery, calls it a huge upgrade and one that will make a huge difference.

Instead of having to turn to a rider’s guide or the website for static schedules, riders will be able to use web browsers or mobile devices to see where their bus is and when the next one is coming. For the first time people will also see and hear on-board announcements as they near the next stop, and a number of stops in the region, including Vancouver Island University, Woodgrove and Ravensong in Qualicum, will get digital screens with scrolling information about the next buses arriving, their routes and run numbers.

The district also expects to get real-time data, with the help of automated people counters on the bus, to help with planning and scheduling future services. It’s all part of the Smart Bus Project.

“It’s been a process that’s been in the works for quite awhile,” said Miller. “We’re extremely excited to be launching this and our service is going to be much better for it, for sure.”

Funding for the project comes from the public infrastructure fund, announced in 2016 by the federal and provincial governments.

B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure said in a press release that the service upgrades will be hugely helpful for people who already ride the bus and a great incentive for more people to start.

“We are committed to making B.C. Transit service more convenient and accessible, and I expect transit users will be thrilled with these improvements,” she said.

Manuel Achadinha, B.C. Transit president and chief executive officer, said the new technology will help improve the efficiency of its services and customers’ overall transit experience.

Nanaimo’s buses are being outfitted now to gear up for a May 23 launch.

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