An Idea for Translink

Lord knows that I’m no fan at all of our local transit system. If you live in the city of Vancouver, you can get bus service as frequently as every five minutes. In the suburbs, however, things rapidly go down from there, with some places having a bus go by once an hour. Just hope you don’t miss it…

About a year ago I thought of a way to help Translink’s riders to get information on when the next bus is due at their stop. Translink has a link on their site (www.translink.bc.ca) that allows you to enter the stop number and find out just when the next bus will be arriving. Sounds like an excellent plan, except for one little thing: what is the stop number?? The website allows you to type in a description of where you are and it’ll attempt to guess the location and if you confirm that that is where you’re actually located, it’ll give you the stop number. Not very helpful if you don’t know street names in the area. Sure you could try calling their customer service number (yeah, right) but that won’t get you very far either if you have to sit on hold for 20 minutes to talk to a person.

So, here’s what I propose, Translink. The next time you change the signs at the stop, put a little label on the sign that says “Stop #xxxx”. Then, you can fully automate the system so that if someone is standing in the pouring rain in December wondering when the next bus is going to show up, they can call the support number and punch the stop number into their cell phone. The system then goes and checks it’s database for the next two or three scheduled stops at that location.

Simple, no? Easier than paying that one poor person working at the call center to give the same information to hundreds of callers each day.

6 Comments so far

  1. Courtney (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2006 @ 8:55 am

    That is exactly what they do in Calgary because, like the suburbs here, their transit system sucks. Seems to work quite well and I’ve used it several times – just wish it would make the bus come faster.


  2. wyn (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2006 @ 8:59 am

    When I first arrived in Vancouver I noticed two aggravating things about the bus stops: (1) There are those baffling signs where no route(s) are posted because they aren’t “major” stops – I was too new to guess which alternative route might use that stop other than the one I was aiming for, and (2) I’m used to in Toronto and Halifax being able to dial a phone number for Stop #xxxx 416-838-xxxx, say, and for that particular stop the next two buses for all the routes would be listed.

    Is that too much to ask?


  3. Rod Templeton (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2006 @ 9:41 am

    Wyn – I like that idea even better than mine. Rather than having to enter the stop number and then have it “confirm” that you entered the right number, having the suffix of the phone number match the stop number would be brilliant.


  4. Rob Cottingham (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2006 @ 10:05 am

    Ottawa too… and this was before cell phones were ubiquitous (back when you could still find a pay phone to save your life).


  5. Flash (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2006 @ 11:16 am

    I was going to comment also that Ottawa has that system, from back in the days before cell phones and prevalent internet. Visited there on Canada Day ’95, and small stops out in suburbs had their stop number and that phone number on the sign. Amazed me at the time; that was quite the advanced system for it’s date, and reserving an entire prefix of phone numbers for such a purpose in the days before 10 digit dialing seemed extravagant.


  6. Richard (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2006 @ 3:07 pm

    Another idea is be able to send a text message to a certain number, with the bus stop’s ID, and get the 3 next buses sent back to you with the expected time they are to arrive. Also not an original idea:

    http://www.devon.gov.uk/index/transport/public_transport/buses/services-4/text_messaging_service.htm



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