Bill Friend, an RDN Transit driver, shuttles people around during a demonstration of NextRide technology on Wednesday. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

VIDEO: Regional district and B.C. Transit show off NextRide bus technology

New technology for Nanaimo bus riders will allow for real-time tracking

Regional District of Nanaimo Transit showed off new technology Wednesday that will allow riders to track buses in real time, among other benefits.

RDN and B.C. transit announced in April that it was implementing NextRide automatic vehicle location technology which provides bus tracking on cellphones; it would also add automated voice notifications and electronic signs on buses informing transit users of the next stop.

Officials from the RDN and B.C. Transit, as well as B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, were on hand for a demonstration bus ride on Wednesday.

Trevena joked that while the notifications weren’t done with actor Morgan Freeman’s voice, they would be appreciated.

“I’m pleased that there are people here who will benefit from this NextRide technology,” said Trevena. “People of all ages, all abilities use B.C. Transit to get around and with today’s launch of NextRide technology, we are making transit really modern, a more contemporary and convenient and accessible option for those who are of two minds about whether they should use transit, this makes it much easier.”

The enhancements are welcomed by Albert Ruel, who is blind and has been advocating for the technology for a long time.

“It just allows me to know with confidence when my bus stop is coming up,” said Ruel. “It also, with the outdoor announcement, it means that when the bus pulls up and the driver opens the door, I will know that that is the bus I’m looking for because it will announce the number of the bus and the direction … as a blind person I can hear the engine in the back. To find the door is a heck of a problem, so that announcement above the door helps me to find the door.”

The Regional District of Nanaimo area is the first area where NextRide has been implemented and it will be rolled out in the Comox Valley in June, Squamish and Whistler sometime in the summer, Kamloops and Kelowna in the fall and Victoria in late 2018 or early 2019.

Strategic Mapping Inc. has been contracted to install and monitor the technology, according to a press release, with money coming from Public Transit Infrastructure Fund announced by both the federal and provincial governments in June 2016 and the total cost of the project is $6.74 million, according to Jonathon Dyck, B.C. Transit spokesman. It will be cost shared with the federal government assuming 50 per cent, provincial government 33 per cent and local government assuming the remaining 17 per cent.

To access NextRide, go to www.bctransit.com/nanaimo.

Daniel Pearce, RDN director of transportation, said the next project the RDN is looking into is fare technology.

“Right now we do have fairly basic fare technology,” said Pearce. “We want to advance that fare technology so people can start paying with their smartphones or credit cards and that’s something for next steps in the years to come.”

Pearce hopes the fare technology will be implemented in the next two to five years.



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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