Edmonton Transit has taken one more step in the direction of making that bitterly cold mid-winter wait for your bus a thing of the past.
Smart Bus technology now offers riders the ability to know when the next bus is actually departing from their stop, and they can find the information on Google.
ETS has provided Google Transit with a real-time computer connection that refreshes the location of each Smart Bus every 15 seconds. Not only do the locations show up on maps, but riders can zoom in a little and know what exact time their next bus will be at their stop.
The data is also provided to other outside developers as part of the City’s commitment to the Open Data concept.
“It won’t show the actual movement of the buses like we do on ETSLive,” says Musse Dese, Acting Director of Customer Experience and Innovation. “But Google Transit users will now know the real-time departure of their bus, provided it is equipped with Smart Bus technology.”
The City currently has the technology installed on 304 buses. To date, 21 specific routes have Smart Bus-only service. By March 2016, another 500 buses will be equipped, and ETS recently received word that provincial GreenTRIP funding will enable the final 128 buses to be so equipped by the end of June, 2016.
“Providing real-time Smart Bus location information took a lot of work ,” says Musse. “There is a tremendous amount of data involved in bus scheduling, and doing it in real time adds an enormous complexity to the process.”
“It’s one more step in good customer service that we’re very proud of,” he says. “We’re very keen on making transit the easy choice for people, as convenient as driving.”
The google.com/transit website is easy to use. Just enter your location and destination (there’s a predictive auto-fill function to make it even easier) and push the “Get Directions” button. Google then presents you with one or several possible routes, along with travel times.
Before you get directions, you can choose whether to screen the possibilities by best route, fewest transfers or least walking.
When you get the map of your route/s, zoom in to see the actual bus stop you’re leaving from, and click on it, Google presents you with a drop-down box containing all the route numbers that stop there and the time of their next departure. Smart Bus exact-time departures are designated by a flashing grey circle (on desktops), or in green type (mobile phones).
Sometimes, Musse says, Smart Buses are used on routes that have not yet been designated smart bus routes. In those cases, the same real-time information will be displayed whenever the next departure is a Smart Bus.
As well, whenever a bus stop is out of service for construction or other reasons, a line appears through its route names.
In keeping with City Council’s commitment to open data, Musse says ETS has made route and real-time Smart Bus location information freely available for software developers to use. The data is available through the ETS website.