The official launch of the new TransLink mobile website m.translink.ca is almost here! Over the past seven months, the mobile team has been testing out the mobile site with each new beta release and considering feedback from Buzzer readers on how best to perfect the final product. In early February, we had a couple of Buzzer readers visit the TransLink office and test out the predictive departure times feature of the website. Later in February, we asked readers how they would like to see predictive departure times integrated into the service. Thanks to everyone who took the time to provide feedback, the team has been able to complete their work on predictive departure times and has just released this feature for everyone to use!
How predictive departure times work: Next Bus home page
If you’re new to the system, the revamping of the Next Bus home page will be very helpful. Instead of clicking “map view” and navigating around the map for the service you want, you can now use the look up functions for both bus routes and bus stops (there’s also the favourites function of course). Using these two functions, users can see their route or stop destinations. So if you only know where you want to go, these additions can help! The bus route lookup now includes the name associated with the bus number. This means that if you know you need the Main bus, you can find it without knowing that the Main bus is the #3. The bus stop lookup links to Trip Planner, allowing you to search the specific route or find the service information for a particular landmark.
How predictive departure times work: Text view
The predictive bus departure times feature is a huge step for the mobile site, particularly for the text view portion of nb.translink.ca. Now when you search for a bus route, you can either punch in the number of the route or chose the route in numerical order or by name. First, you’d be asked for the direction you’d like to travel. You’ll then be taken to a page showing all the stops that route services identified by location. Next, the page expands to show you not only all the times when the bus will be departing at that stop for the next two hours or when the next one is scheduled if there is no service in the next two hours, but also when the next bus will be departing in real-time!
If you’d like to search by bus stop, you can either be brought to a page showing all the buses that service that stop or enter a location yourself. Once the stop is found, click “Text View” and the page will expand to show all the bus routes servicing that stop and the times to expect the bus.
If a bus will be departing from your stop within the next two hours, the number of minutes until the bus departs will be displayed. If the time provided is a scheduled time (not a predictive time), then it will have an asterisk* next to it. If it’s a predictive time (a GPS device on each bus tells the system where it is), just the number of minutes until it departs from the stop will be displayed. Departure times more than two hours away will be displayed using the actual time of departure (e.g., 5:43 pm instead of the number of minutes, 23 min).
There are a number of reasons why a scheduled time would be displayed instead of a predictive time. Our system provides predictive times only when the bus is traveling in the direction you are planning on traveling. This means that if you are planning on traveling Eastbound on the #19, predictive times can only be supplied for #19 buses currently traveling Eastbound. In addition, predictive times cannot be supplied if the GPS system is not transmitting the time back to the system for various reasons.
How predictive departure times work: Map view
Map view provides a summary of the information provided in text view. So, instead of showing all the bus departure times (predictive and scheduled), you’ll see up to five departure times. What is new (besides the predictive times in the bubble) is that if you click on the “more info” link when you’re looking at a bus stop bubble, it will take you to text view where you can see a complete list of predictive and scheduled departure times for buses that service that stop.
Bold predictive times, Due and cancelled trips
If the bus will be departing in five minutes or fewer, the number will be bold. If the bus is estimated to be departing within two minutes or less, the word “Due” will be displayed. Finally, this latest release of the website will also tell you if a bus has been cancelled. There are three indicators for cancelled trips. The time of the cancelled trip will not only change from black to red, it will be crossed out with a red line running through it. To further clarify that this bus will not be departing, a large letter “C” will appear next to the time.
Now that this almost last beta version has been released, we’ll be announcing the service to a wider audience very soon. That of course means that if you see any bugs that were missed or obvious functional problems, we would love for you to post them in the comments section. There are still predictive data accuracy data needs the mobile team is still trying to work the kinks out of. So, if you spend enough time using the website, you might just find something.
Seven months ago I couldn’t really envision what the final version of the new mobile website would look like. Now that it’s almost here, I really see the potential this tool has to improve the transit experience.
Talking to the mobile team over the course of the development of the website, the input from Buzzer readers has been priceless and has helped shape the final product. I’d like to thank you all for taking the time to provide such constructive feedback!
Enjoy predictive departure times and let us know what you think!