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Translink Buzzer Blog

Category: Web and Mobile Offerings

Next Bus SMS goes real-time

Your Next Bus texts are now in real-time!

Text "help" to 33333 and receive the following text.

Texting your favourite five-digit bus stop locator number (printed on the bus stop sign) to 33333 has become a ritual for many of us in Metro Vancouver. Since its inception in 2007, Next Bus Short Message Service (SMS) has been heavily used. To date, there have been 50 million requests for information, and we currently average about 60,000 requests each day.

Today marks a significant change in the information you’ll receive on your mobile device through SMS. Following the official launch of real-time transit information via nb.translink.ca (part of m.translink.ca) roughly two months ago, real-time info is now provided in the SMS text messages you receive.

As with the web version of Next Bus, the predicted departure time of buses is updated at least every two minutes to keep riders informed of when they should be at their bus stop. Unlike the web version of Next Bus, Next Bus SMS doesn’t require a cellular dataplan to access information. We don’t charge the user for text messages so, depending on the cell phone plan provided by your cell phone carrier, Next Bus SMS may have no incremental cost to use. Next Bus SMS can also be accessed on any cellular phone that is text enabled, so you don’t need a smartphone to access the information. Although most of the information you’ll be provided with will be in real-time, there will be the occasional scheduled time provided. Scheduled departure times are demarcated with an asterisk (*) next to them. When the information is available, we will also indicate canceled buses with a “C”. For example,  [4] 2:50pC would indicate a bus that was scheduled to depart at 2:50 but has been cancelled.

Update!

Another feature of Next Bus SMS that I haven’t mentioned is texting the word “help” to 33333. If you do this, you’ll get a short help description of the service (see example on the right).

Try it out, and let us know what you think!

 

 

Outage of some online properties starts Friday, June 15

It's good to take note of these outages this weekend

We just wanted to let everyone know that some of our online services we’ll be temporarily unavailable starting around 7pm tomorrow, June 15, 2012 and coming back online late in the evening on Saturday, June 16, 2012.

We have some required maintenance that needs to be done to our scheduling, management and customer information software.

Here’s a quick list:

I’ve been told that these upgrades are on TransLink’s side only and there’ll will be no changes to the services for customers once they’re back online. For TransLink, the maintenance will mean an important upgrade to our systems.

During this outage, the following services will still be available:

  • For transit information, please call 604.953.3333 or tweet @translink
  • For customer service, please call 604.953.3040
  • Next Bus SMS texting: text the 5-digit bus stop number to 33333

Please pass this along to anyone you know who might be affected!

PS: we’re making this post stay at the top of the Buzzer blog for the weekend — check below for a few newer posts below.

Preferences added to the new Next Bus

Preferences for Next Bus can streamline your real time experience.

The latest addition to our Next Bus service is the Preferences feature. You may have noticed when visiting Next Bus recently that there’s new a pop-up screen informing users that they can now choose how they want time displayed in respect to bus departure times as well as if they prefer text or map view as a search default. Previously, the service only provided a countdown to bus departure times. Users also had to choose either text or map view for every search they conducted.

The addition of preferences is a result of customer feedback, including the feedback provided by Buzzer readers to our blog post asking how we should display time on the new Next Bus.

In other mobile news, we’re still planning for a summer/fall release of our predictive times API. Stay tuned, everyone!

The new Next Bus is now officially launched!

I’ve been bloggging about it for since May last year, and now the new Next Bus real-time service is officially out of beta! As part of m.translink.ca, not only can Next Bus show where buses are in real time on a map, it can provide predictive departure times! If you’re a regular Buzzer blog reader, you’ll already be familiar with the new Next Bus. If not, there’s plenty of info on the new mobile website on this blog. a couple of new updates have been incorporated to the last beta release of Next Bus and the mobile site in general. Read more »

Predictive departure times added to the new mobile website

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

There are many ways to find where you are going using the new Next Bus!

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. Read more »

Predictive departure times for real-time Next Bus

This is one internal beta version for predictive bus departure times in map view.

In simple terms, the main question that the new TransLink mobile website has been trying to answer is: Where is my bus? Having GPS on our fleet and using the new website to track the location of buses has provided a solution to that question. Now, with the website nearing the end of its beta testing, the mobile website team is aiming to answer yet another question: When will my bus be departing from my bus stop? Providing customers with the best information to do this based on the data our systems can gather is our approach to this new and very important question. And it’s a question I hope Buzzer blog readers can help us address.

Throughout the beta phase of the new mobile site, the mobile team has been collecting feedback on the new website from Buzzer blog readers. This has been done via the comments left by readers and two in-person user testing sessions (one in August of last year and one early this month).

During this last (predictive) phase of the mobile website development, the mobile team would like to ask readers what predictive information they would like to see and how they want to see it. Read more »

Real-time transit information beta test part II wrap-up

Luke was the first tester of the day!

At the beginning of the month, I put out a call for a couple of testers to help us look at where we’ve come from since we launched the new mobile site last September as well as where we should be heading. We received over 20 applications, and, in the end, we settled on two great testers. Although there were a lot of qualified people who offered to be testers, the two Buzzer blog readers we settled on were both heavy users of the mobile site and provided some very constructive information in their applications.

The first tester of the day was Luke. He brought his iPhone 4 and his good nature along with him. The mobile team got him to play with the existing mobile site as well as showed him some other North American transit agencies’ mobile sites. I met up with Luke after the testing and asked him how it went. Read more »

Friday Fun Poll – Has the new mobile site changed how you use transit?


Smartphone with new mobile site loaded on it

It’s been a crazy week, so I haven’t been able to post anything this week until now! Don’t worry, next week will be a busy one on the blog, so rest up this weekend, my friends, because there will be plenty of reading to stay on top of next week.

I thought it would be nice to have another Friday Fun Poll since the last one was in October when I asked the question, “What motivates how you spend most of you time on transit?

This time around, I want to ask how the mobile site has or hasn’t changed your transit life. If you don’t know about m.translink.ca yet, I’ve written a few posts that will get you up to speed. For those of you who already know about the site, here’s the question:

Has the new mobile site changed how you use transit?

  • Yes, I use it every time I take transit. (43%, 63 Votes)
  • Yes, I use it at least once a week. (22%, 33 Votes)
  • No, I still use online or print schedules for transit info. (21%, 31 Votes)
  • No, I never use it and either don't see a need to use it or find it of little use. (14%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 147

Looking for two testers to test existing Real-Time Transit Information and help us look to the future

Testers will provide feedback on the latest and past updates to nb.translink.ca

It’s that time again to invite Buzzer Blog readers to help us shape what the mobile site will look like in the near future. The first Real-Time Next BusInformation beta testing happened before the launch of m.translink.ca in the fall. Since then, we’ve updated the Next Bus map so you can click on any bus stop # and get schedule and bus information that corresponds to it, search by route # and location, as well as search by the path your bus takes and save your favourite bus route and stops. The old Trip Planner map was also replaced with a Google map update as well as email and print options added.

Now that we are coming to the end of the mobile site’s beta period, the mobile team would like to look back at what’s been already released as well as look forward to the final beta phase before the site is officially launched. The in-person Buzzer Blog testing and the comments left on this and other new mobile site Buzzer Blog posts all contribute to making the new site as good and as user friendly as possible.

Favourites, the path of your bus route and functionality improvements added to Next Bus!

A mobile map of the #9 showing the route after path (in-orange) saved using the new favorites function

Every few weeks or so, the mobile team rolls out refinements to the Next Bus service found within our mobile site, m.translink.ca. This month, I’m very excited to see three new additions that I think will greatly improve helping customers find the right bus for their needs. First up: favourites are now live! Read more »

GPS-enabled search added to Next Bus

GPS-enabled search on Next Bus

GPS-enabled search on Next Bus

Today, the team behind TransLink’s mobile site has a holiday present for site users — more updates, including GPS-enabled map search, route links available in the Next Bus bubble, and route text view! Read more »

Google maps, email and print options added to Trip Planner

Google map view

Trip Planner now uses Google Maps!

It was only last week that I wrote about the latest updates to Next Bus. This week’s exciting announcement is about a very significant update to the desktop version of Trip Planner. For years, people have been telling us how much they like using Google Maps. Trip planner has had its own map, but it pales in comparison to Google Maps’ functionality, usability and familiarity with uses. Well, I’m tickled to say that today is the official launch date of Google Maps on Trip Planner! Read more »

Search by route # is now live on Next Bus!

Search by route

This just in... you can now see the route of the bus you want to take!

The mobile team has been quietly working on new functionality for our Next Bus service. As many of you know, after the new mobile site (m.translink.ca) was launched in September, the Next Bus (nb.translink.ca) page was updated so that if you use the map function and you click on any bus stop, you’ll get the corresponding routes that service that stop and their schedules. Read more »

The latest update to Next Bus is live

The updated Next Bus map

The updatd Next Bus map show bus stops as "T"s and allows you to search any bus stop by clicking onto it.

You might have already noticed a recent change with nb.translink.ca. If not, you can either go there directly or go to m.translink.ca, and click on “Next Bus”. Once you’ve chosen the bus stop #, you’ll notice the real-time map looks a little different. Now all bus stops have a “T” icon, so you can find them easily on the map. But this isn’t the big change. You can now not only see the schedule and the real-time locations of the buses that service the  stop # you searched for, you can click on any stop in Metro Vancouver and see the schedule and buses associated with it by simply moving around the map. Perhaps you see a bus stop that’s closer than the one you searched for. Now you can easily click on it and see if there is a route that you like and see where the buses that service that route are in real-time!

Think of it as a tweak of the Next Bus service that was released in September. Previously, you had to enter the bus stop # each time you wanted to find a bus near you. That meant having to return to the search page and possibly having to look up the bus stop # every time. Now you just need to enter a stop # once, and you can move around the real-time map and click on as many stops as you like.

Coming Next:

  • The mobile team is working on being able to go directly to the real-time map without having to enter a bus stop # first. This way, you won’t need to find a bus # in order to use the map, which should save some time.
  • As mentioned in my previous mobile post, future phases will include being able to search by route(s), search by user’s location and real-time bus arrival times.
  • Once these phases have been rolled out, the mobile team will be working hard on making all of m.translink.ca accessible across numerous smart phone platforms including Android, Windows and Blackberry OS.

As always, your comments about the service are welcome. I’ve been forwarding each and every one of them to the mobile team and will continue to find answers to the questions and comments you post.

Our new mobile website is live!

m.translink.ca main page

m.translink.ca main page

After a lot of planning, work and some testing (thanks again, Buzzer readers), the newly upgraded mobile website is finally here!

The new Next Bus

If you logged onto m.translink.ca recently, you would notice that the page looks different. Not only has the page been redesigned, there are two new services provided: Next Bus and Favorites. Oh, and there is also a twitter feed at the bottom of the main page. When you click onto the new Next Bus feature, you’re taken to the “Where’s My Bus?” page. From here, you can either enter the bus stop number (if you know it), or you click on the “Find My Stop” button on the right. If you enter a stop number, your next choice is to have your search displayed as a map or as text (having it displayed as text is great if your cell phone isn’t a smart phone).

Finding you stop step 1

Finding you stop step 1

If you don’t know your stop number, then the “Find My Stop” button takes you to a page that allows you the intersection or popular location for your location. This page accesses the same functionality that is used when using Trip Planner. Once you’ve chosen your desired stop, you can chose either a map or text display of your search.

The Real-Time map

Oh, the map. I love looking at it. Anyway, once you’re at the map view, you’ll see a red pin showing the bus stop you searched for and the buses (illustrated by a blue and white icon) that service that particular stop. The route number is displayed in the bus icon’s window. The arrows indicate the direction of the route that bus is on. Above the red pin is a bubble showing the details for the stop number that the user searched for including the stop location and number, the bus route numbers and their schedules for that stop.

Map view of Next Bus

Map view of Next Bus

“Real Time” means you’ll see the actual location of the bus. For this release of the beta, you’ll be able to cross-reference the scheduled time of the bus with bus’ actual location. Each bus is equiped with a GPS that updates its location every two minutes. Because each bus is running on its own clock, not all buses will update at the same time. In order to update the location of the bus on the map you’ll need to manually “Refresh” the map by using the “Refresh” button at the top of the screen or your browser’s “Refresh” button.

Favourites

Click on the "Add to favorites" button to save your route

Click on the "Add To Favorites" button to save your route

This first release of the mobile site saves your favorite route by using the Trip Planning function. Once you’ve chosen the trip option you prefer, you can click on the “Add To Favourites” button. Currently, you’ll be able to store up to four favourite routes.

What your favorites screen may look like after you have used the Trip Planner function a few times

What your Favorites screen may look like after you have used the Trip Planner function a few times

You’ll also notice that the favourites function also stores the last four searches you’ve performed using Trip Planner (both to and from your desired destination).

Trip Planner, Schedules, Fairs, Rider Info, Buzzer Blog, Alerts and Contact Us

All these functions on the mobile site are the same as on the TransLink website or similar to what we had on the old mobile “App” site (with the exception of the “Save To Favorites” button in Trip Planner). You’ll notice that much of the text has been chopped down to the essential information in order to fit on most mobile devices. As mentioned previously, the release of the new mobile site is in beta version.

The mobile team is still working out some bugs and plans on rolling out updates and new features in the months to come including being able to search by route and multiple bus routes according to your location as well as adding real time arrival times to the schedules. The plan is to start with basic functionality and build upon that foundation. Please also remember that this first release of the mobile site works best with iPhones (3G, 3GS, 4). The mobile team is working on making the site work better with other smart phones and operating systems  . As usual, I’ll be forwarding comments to the mobile team, so go out on the system and try it out!