TransLink releases service to show empty seats on buses

The app may prove useful for students returning to campus

A new update to the Translink App will show how many seats are available. (Piqsels)

A new update to the Translink App will show how many seats are available. (Piqsels)

As students prepare to return to campuses in-person this upcoming fall semester, including those at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, there are still some obstacles some students may face as they try to return to the routine of attending classes. 

One of which is how to travel to campus. While driving there is an option for some, taking transit may be some students’ only option to reach their destinations. TransLink partnered up with the Transit App to develop a service that predicts how many empty seats there are on buses.

“So this was a partnership with Transit App and it’s actually part of our 2020 open call for innovation. We ask tech leaders or different businesses around Vancouver to come up with a suggestion on how we can improve transit services for our customers and Transit App,” says Dan Mountain, a TransLink spokesperson who is the advisor for media relations and issues management. 

“Now if any customers open up the Transit App while they’re planning their journey, they’ll have a recommended bus route and it’ll show up with an indicator of how full that bus is likely to be, whether it’s likely to have many seats available, some seats available, or whether it’s standing room only,” says Mountain. 

The service will help those individuals who are nervous about returning to take transit, who don’t feel comfortable being with a lot of people in a small space, and for those who prefer or have to take a seat. 

“We’re very excited… hopefully this can help break down that barrier and maybe attract transit [riders] if they have the confidence in knowing whether or not they’ll have room to ride before they get on board the bus.”

TransLink had to do customer outreach in order to further develop the idea. Mountain says that their team knew that having some way of predicting whether or not their bus would have room is something the passengers wanted. 

“The team behind Transit App came to us and said, ‘this is something we can help you to do with your data, just give us access to your historical data and we’ll help to create the algorithm,’ and we’re very excited to have partnered with Transit App to help us create this innovative feature in their app.”

For students returning to university, one of the hopes is that the app can help them plan their route and get to classes on time.

“It’s a really cool tool for students if they’re thinking about taking transit again in September or if they’re thinking about maybe buying a car. Hopefully this will help them feel more comfortable with transit being able to plan out their journey and what time is best for them to go, and to take an alternate route if their bus is maybe a little more crowded than they expected,” says Mountain.

The Transit app is now available for download on Google Play and the App Store.