ALERT! : More info
Translink Buzzer Blog

Category: Web and Mobile Offerings

#TLHIGHFIVE0: ^at talks to @TransLink’s ^DA about 50,000 followers

Customer Information Workleader Desirée, better known as ^DA!

Customer Information Workleader Desirée, who you know as ^DA on Twitter!

Have you ever called 604.953.3333 for transit information, checked our Transit Alerts, or tweeted @TransLink?

Our fabulous Customer Information team are the folks at the other end of the line when you call and the Customer Information Work Leaders are the ones behind the Transit Alerts and Twitter account!

At the rate TransLink’s Twitter account responds to tweets and pushes out information to our customers, you would imagine a throng of staff all behind rows and rows of computers. But nope, it’s usually just one person – the Customer Information Work Leader!

Desirée, better known as ^DA on Twitter, has been a Work Leader for the past few years. I had the opportunity to ask her a couple of questions about what it’s been like helping to look after the Twitter account!

What does 50,000 followers mean to you and the TL Twitter Team?

It feels like a reward to see this many people follow us! It means over 50,000 of you are looking to us and trust us for accurate and timely information. We always keep that at the front of our minds – just how much impact the information we share can have on our customer’s day.

What do you want to say to the 50,000 followers?

Thanks for the taking the time to contact us, whether it is for good or bad feedback! Thanks for taking the time to notify us when you see something – like an accident on the road or a knocked over bus pole – out on your route that that we should know about. And thanks for sending us positive and kind tweets when you think we might need it. Some of those get passed along so that everyone in our group can see it because we are a team.  We really do feel that we have some of the best followers around the Twitterverse!

One of Desirée's colleagues at the Customer Information Work Leader desk!

One of Desirée’s colleagues at the Customer Information Work Leader desk!

What’s the favourite part of your job?

There are a couple of things. One, I really love the team that I work with. Seriously, they are such a great group of people and they’re so knowledgeable. I learn something new all the time from them. Another favourite part is figuring out some of the mysteries of transit. Being part of the Twitter team involves so much more behind the scenes than just what gets tweeted out. I love figuring out why something is the way it is or why something happened.

What’s the most memorable question you’ve received from a tweeter?

We’ve received so many and it always amazing to see how creative people are. Also, I think it is so great to hear how passionate our riders are about transit. Some pretty fantastic and constructive conversations have been had via Twitter about transit so it’s tough to narrow it down to just one. Although, I personally love it when our followers send us funny or interesting pictures – like the one of Darth Vader riding the Canada Line that said he was “Forced” to take transit due to rising gas prices.

What’s it like having to convey information in less than 140 characters on Twitter?

It’s a challenge to be reduced to such a small number of characters, that’s for sure. I’m usually a pretty descriptive person, so I cringe and joke about having to commit “a grammar crime” in order to squeeze it all in one tweet.  I think I’m probably the biggest offender for sending multiple tweets to get an answer out! Sometimes you need to get creative.

How does one become a tweeter for @TransLink?

Apply to work at Coast Mountain Bus Company and TransLink! Most of the people who tweet and respond using @TransLink are Work Leaders in the Customer Information department. The majority of the Work Leaders have been with Customer Information for some time and most of us have worked in other Coast Mountain departments and depots during our tenure with the company. Being a Work Leader requires a higher level of knowledge about the transit system and also we have access to additional tools and contacts within the company.

How has @TransLink changed 50,000 followers later? 

It has evolved. There is a lot more discussion happening and we’re not just using Twitter to push out information. Information is now being exchanged in both directions, between our followers and us. We learn a lot from our riders and often, if there is an issue going on, they have been the first to alert us (accidents, delays, clean ups required, etc.). Also, in addition to our 50,000 followers, when there is any sort of disruption people who don’t follow @TransLink on Twitter are turning to us first for information and updates.

To cellebrate 50,000 followers on Twitter and to show appreciation, we are giving away three FareCards! To enter, simply follow @TransLink and retweet one of the tweets on this page. It’s that simple. =)

Author: Allen Tung

#TLHIGHFIVE0: 50,000 high fives for our 50,000 followers (Win a FareCard Contest)

Thanks for 50,000 follows!

High five! Thanks for 50,000 follows!

It feels like it was just yesterday when we were celebrating 40,000 followers on Twitter, but now we have 50,000 of you following us and counting!

The @TransLink Twitter account got its start in February 2010 during the Winter Olympics, providing riders with breaking news and key service updates.

But it didn’t start answering questions from tweeps until November 2010 when a one-month pilot project was launched. It was extended multiple times before becoming a permanent service in February 2011!

Today, Customer Information staff are on Twitter from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., seven days a week, to answer all your service-related questions and provide service updates, tips, and information to 50,000+ of you!

Contest time!

To celly, we’re going to give away three FareCards! To enter, simply follow @TransLink and retweet one of the following tweets from our Twitter team:

RT @TransLink: High Five x 50k!!! Ohhh our hands hurt, BUT every one of you is worth it! You’re AWESOME! #TLHIGHFIVE0 http://ow.ly/B3AzP

RT @TransLink: Nearly 4 years ago, we became a permanent service as a result of YOUR support. THANK YOU! #TLHIGHFIVE0 http://ow.ly/B3AzP

RT @TransLink: 2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate? YOU – ALL OF YOU! Thank you for your ongoing support. #TLHIGHFIVE0 http://ow.ly/B3AzP

RT @TransLink: From us to all 50, 000+ of you – THANK YOU! Your tweets and kind words really mean a lot! #TLHIGHFIVE0 http://ow.ly/B3AzP

RT @TransLink: Many ways of spelling our ^ initials, but only one way to show appreciation. T-H-A-N-K-S #TLHIGHFIVE0 http://ow.ly/B3AzP

Contest closes at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, September 11 and we’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, September 12. The FareCard will be for one, two, or three zones, depending on where the winner travels. You’ll want to read the terms and conditions for all the details on the contest.

One person cannot win more than once, so if we draw your name, you will be excluded from the other FareCard draws.

Author: Allen Tung

 

Stay Connected to Transit Police with the new OnDuty Mobile App

Metro Vancouver Transit Police have released OnDuty, a new mobile app that will connect you with all Transit Police’s channels in the palm of your hand.

If you see something, while riding transit, say something! Through the app’s built-in text messaging function, users will be able to discreetly report non-emergency issues to Transit Police dispatch. There is no need to draw attention to yourself and you don’t have to wait to report crime on transit.

The OnDuty app’s Crime Maps feature will allow you to view crime hotspots along the transit system. Transit Police will be updating crime maps section weekly, so you can have a better, up-to-date understanding of where and when crime occurs.

Stay connected to the Transit Police’s Twitter and Facebook pages and real-time alerts will keep you informed about public safety concerns, missing persons or major service disruptions. You will also be able to access TransLink’s Next Bus and Trip Planner features directly from the app!

The OnDuty app, for iOS and Android devices, is free and is now available in the App Store and Google Play.

 

*This app is for non-emergency reporting only. For emergencies, please call 911.

Author: Allen Tung

Google Maps now has live departure times

Google Maps has live departure times now!

Live departure times at the WB w Broadway NS Ash St stop

We have some great news transit riders: Google Maps has live departure times now!

Through the new GTFS real-time API, Google Maps is now able to provide real-time transit information like our Next Bus feature. It is able to display predicted departure times (based on GPS data) instead of scheduled departure times.

This means riders using Google Maps to plan their trip will be able to know more accurately when they will arrive at their destination. As an added bonus, Google Maps also provides an estimated walking time when you’re off transit.

Google Maps 2-Minute Delay

Two-minute delay on this trip to the University of British Columbia

GTFS real-time is a different way of processing the real-time transit data already available through Real Time Transit Information (RTTI). It will offer developers greater flexibility to create even more amazing apps built with our shared and free transit data.

Developers can visit developer.translink.ca to register for an API key to access our GTFS real-time, RTTI, and Regional Traffic Data System (RTDS) open APIs.

Let us know how you’ll be using this new data and Google Maps feature!

Author: Allen Tung

Developers: Use our latest open API to create apps with our regional traffic data

Our Real-Time Traffic Map which uses our newly released Regional Traffic Data System (RTDS)

Our Real-Time Traffic Map which uses data from our newly released Regional Traffic Data System (RTDS)

Well this is exciting. We now have another way for developers to create apps with our data!

Our latest open application programming interfaces (API) is called the Regional Traffic Data System (RTDS) API. Basically, this API provides near real-time data on average speeds and travel times on highways and major roadways in Metro Vancouver.

As shown above, this data is used in our Real-Time Traffic Map to depict varying levels of congestion. The RTDS system data translates to coloured lines showing the speed of traffic which is then overlaid on a Google Map.

I’ll certainly be using this map to help me chose the best route to take when I hit the road on a bus or car. But the potential of this data is farther reaching than this map. It’s not hard to see how developers could make an app that shows congestion on bridges across Metro Vancouver and suggests alternative routes or some other multitude of applications that haven’t been dreamed up yet.

This latest API joins our previous open APIs like our Real-Time Transit Information (RTTI) and our Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). Our open data is released in the spirit of sharing information with the public to make apps that our customers want. It gives our users the tools to create even more amazing apps (also see these two app posts here and here) built with our shared and free data.

Are you interested in playing with this new data? If so, you’ll want to check out our developer resources page for a complete list of our developer tools.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what creative developers come up with! Oh, and do share with me what you’re doing on with our API. I’d love to feature your work on the blog!

 

We’re celebrating 40K followers on Twitter!

We reached 40,000 followers of the @TransLink Twitter account! We’re super excited about the attention and engagement of our customers on Twitter. To celebrate we randomly gave away four FareCards to followers who tweeted the #TL40K hashtag and completed this sentence, “I’m grateful for…” Have a look at what you (our transit customers!) shared with us. We here at the Buzzer are grateful too — for all you loyal readers of course! #TL40K

 

#TL40K Twitter contest. What are you grateful for?

I'm grateful to be part of the Buzzer community!

I’m grateful to be part of the Buzzer community!

It was only this February when we were celebrating reaching 30 000 followers on Twitter. Now, we’re on the cusp of reaching 40 000! Our Twitter handle, @TransLink has been extremely popular since we started really getting going with tweeting during the Winter Olympics and the channel became officially staffed in February 2011.

To celebrate both the 40 000 follower milestone and the festive season, we’ve put together a contest.

Get on Twitter and do the following to win one of four January FareCards

First off, you’ll want to read the #TL40K terms and conditions. Next, complete this tweet – “I’m grateful for…” and include the hashtag “#TL40k”. Here’s an example:

@TransLink I’m grateful to be part of the Buzzer community! #TL40K

December is a time when many of us give thanks for family, friends, Santa on transit…all sorts of things!

A winner will be randomly chosen on December 23, 2013

We’ll be collecting tweets until December 22, 2013, and randomly choosing four winners the next day.

Oh, and staff who tweet for @TransLink will be tweeting all week about what they’re grateful for, including yours truly – ^rw.

Thanks to all our followers! Next milestone: 50K!

All aboard for a transit adventure using NEW Trip Planner functions – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

Screen shots of Edit Trip Plan and other new features.

 

This past weekend, I took my five-year old, four books and my three-year old on two buses and one SkyTrain. Why? My husband had to go into the office on Saturday morning and we had a family birthday party to attend. It was not ideal to have two cars at the restaurant so the light bulb went on and I thought – why not take transit?

We live in Port Moody and our destination was the Cactus Club on Lougheed Highway. Driving there would take approximately 40 minutes, but I had no idea how long a journey on transit would take or what the route would entail. To the Trip Planner I went, keen with the thought of an adventure.

Two new Trip Planner functions jumped out at me; first, I could select the “Allow More Walking (up to 1km)” option, so that I could catch a more direct bus to my second stop with just a few more minutes of walking; and two, I noticed that there is finally an “Edit Trip Plan” button! This new button allowed me to make changes to my trip plan, without having to reenter my information with each time I made an adjustment – and there were many as I tried to find the most efficient route with the shortest duration.

I also checked out Google Transit tab on TransLink’s Trip Planning page so I could see my route tracked on a map – this I found super helpful.

In the end, we had a great morning on transit, the kids had an adventure and we arrived safely – without tears – at our destination.

In case you missed our review of other transit related apps, check out this Buzzer post from October. Happy travels!

 An ‘Edit Trip Plan’ button is now at your fingertips.
Author: Angela Salehi

Developers: Some great transit apps that can help you get where you’re going

Transit App - the location of TransLink HQ is a little off, but close enough!

Transit App – the location of TransLink HQ is a little off, but close enough!

Since we released our transit data to the public at large shortly after our TransLink API Developer Camp last year, new transit applications (apps) based on TransLink’s open API have been popping up on a regular basis.

Over the past few months, I’ve found that I’ve started to use some of these (often free) apps nearly as much as I use TransLink’s mobile website, m.translink.ca. Here’s a list of a few that I’ve tried and one that I hear is good (I use an iPhone).

Transit App

This app is beautiful in its simplicity. Basically, this app uses your smart phones GPS to find out where you are and displays all the available transit available to you and their departure times. When you already know where you are going, I find this is often all I need. What’s even better is that I don’t need to click even once to know when the closest transit to me will be leaving.

There’s also a trip finding function that seems to work pretty well. It’s available for iPhone and Android devises.

Radar for Metro Vancouver Buses

Radar for Metro Vancouver Buses

 

Radar for Metro Vancouver Buses

This one came to my attention because of this Vancouver Sun article. Like the Transit App, this app is like a simplified version of nb.translink.ca. This app is great if you know what route you want to take but need the schedule. Simply type in the number of the route, and it shows all of the buses running the route in real-time. Available for iPhone and iPad.

iTransitVan

iTransitVan

iTransitVan

ITransitVan been out for a couple of years and was also mentioned by Buzzer reader Reena in 2011. It has a couple of functions including finding nearby stops and listing all of the routes in the search tab (which I find to be a great reference). It doesn’t look like this app is using real-time info yet. If developers add that, I think this app will be even better. For iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

LiveTranslink Vancouver

LiveTranslink Vancouver

LiveTranslink Vancouver

An Android app with an interesting spelling of TransLink, this app was described to me as like nb.translink.ca, but quicker because you don’t need to click much. Choose the route you like and find it in real-time on the map.

I’m sure there are a slew of other apps out there that I don’t know of. Now’s your chance to share them with everyone. It’s our intentional to release transit data that brilliant developers can use to make fantastic apps that people use to take transit with.

Check out some of the apps that have been made from our data in the past here and here.

Share those apps everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://buzzer.translink.ca/2011/01/developers-ibusvan-is-now-open-source-and-the-code-is-available-now/

The new Google Maps includes neat new transit comparisons

As we all have probably heard, Google launched a bunch of new things yesterday, including a new Google Maps!

It’s not quite launched yet, but the video above does a short walkthrough, and it shows the maps include a neat new display so you can compare transit trips. (PS: Google’s Vancouver transit searches runs off TransLink schedule data that we provide to them, so things are generally fairly accurate.)

I like how this might make transit even more friendly for people figuring out how to get around. And Google really seems to be interested this goal too – here’s a quote from a Skift article from yesterday:

There was also a strong presence for public transit across all Maps platforms. Product Manager for Google Maps Bernhard Seefeld said, ”We want to make public transit much much much smarter,” and you see this ambition across the Maps products, as well as the updated Google Now, which will include real-time transit information.

So now: I’m curious what you think about the new Google Maps for transit! Do you use Google Maps for transit much today—and what do you think about what you need from its future? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Spotlighted in 24 Hours!

Look, it's Jhen in 24 Hours!

Look, it’s Jhen in 24 Hours!

I clean forgot to mention that TransLink’s social media work was spotlighted in 24 Hours newspaper last Friday, April 5, 2013!

Check out the article here: I got to speak on behalf of the TransLink social media team and its fantastic work. Especially our Twitter account, which now tops 30,000 followers!

Look: we’ve got our APTA 2012 awards!

Our 2012 APTA AdWheel awards!

As mentioned before, we won three 2012 APTA AdWheel Awards—and we finally picked them up in person!

The AdWheel Awards are given out by the American Public Transportation Association, and they recognize the best in marketing and communications from transit agencies across North America.

We won for best blog, best Twitter account, and best social networking (for our Pet Peeves campaign), and we picked up the awards at the annual conference in Seattle yesterday!

Sadly, we didn’t manage to win the grand prize for our category. That honour went to the viral video entry from Orange County Transportation Authority!

A big congratulations to all our colleagues who won awards this year: check out the full list of award winners on the APTA site. You can also see a few photos from our part of the award ceremony below!

The TransLink website is getting updated on October 9, 2012

You'll see a different looking translink.ca come October 9, 2012!

TransLink’s tireless web team is always looking for new ways of helping you find the information you’re looking for. Unlike most transportation authorities in North America, TransLink is not just responsible for transit. We’re also responsible for roads, bridges, AirCare, cycling and pedestrian initiatives. As a result, we have to constantly revisit how we’re presenting that information, and how everything fits together on the site.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, the translink.ca sitemap and menu structure will change. Because of this, some Buzzer blog links, bookmarks and links to our website from other sites might break.

If you’re having trouble finding a page or updating your bookmarks after October 9, use the Search feature located in the top right corner of the page. The default search is for webpages, but once you get results, you can filter that down to documents, or even items on the Buzzer blog and Twitter.

We’re told the new menus and sitemap will make finding the information you’re looking for faster and easier! (Note: the web team didn’t just make these changes arbitrarily. They conducted card sorting activities and other market research to determine what changes to make and where to make those changes.)

Some of the upcoming changes include a global navigation bar. This includes changes to section like “Be Part of the Plan” to “Plans and Projects”, as well as combining all non-transit related information into one section called “Getting Around” (instead of a section each for Cycling and Driving). There will also be mega menus which will allow for second and third-level pages to be better seen. Check out this link for more info on the changes.

It may take a little getting used to, and Jhen and I will be spending some time updating links, but in the end, we’re excited about this new look and improved functionality!

The West Coast Express website is moving to TransLink.ca!

The old homepage for WestCoastExpress.com!

In our efforts to better serve our customers and make transit a one-stop shop on the web, we’re integrating the information found at westcoastexpress.com into translink.ca. The URL for West Coast Express will still exist, but will redirect to the TransLink website starting today.

This process has been in the works for a little while. Information found on our the WCE website will be found on our website, with a dedicated WCE page within TransLink’s website.

And there’s also a plan to expand the content related to these two services on our website. Having WCE content managed by one team helps us update all of our information faster and more consistently.

Our website is constantly evolving and growing with new content. We hope you like the added info!

TransLink API Developer Camp – July 18, 2012

01101000011011110110110001101100011000010110100000100001

Over the past year that I’ve been blogging and tweeting about TransLink’s new mobile site, there’s been a recurring theme among the comments and questions from our riders. People generally seem to like m.translink.ca, but they want to know if we still have an app or are planning on making one.

There are few reason’s why we decided to discontinue our TransLink app in favour of our new mobile website. One reason is that a website can be accessed by a larger group of mobile and desktop users. Our new mobile website currently supports iPhone and iPad users, as well as mobile devices (smart phones and tablets) which use current Android and Blackberry operating systems. It can also be accessed on most any desktop. Our old app could only be downloaded onto iPhones.

The bigger reason why we put our attention on a new mobile website instead of an app is that talented developers could have access to our real-time transit information and build seemingly endless customized apps and websites to suit most any desires our users might have in a mobile transit interface.

TransLink has a lot of transit data available for developers to use to make fantastic transit related services. That process of sharing this information, in real-time and not just scheduled data, starts next week. Here’s the vital information:

API Developer Camp

Wednesday, July 18th from 10:30AM SHARP-1:30PM

TransLink Head Office – 16th Floor of Metrotower II – 4720 Kingsway, Burnaby

The camp will be more of a discussion than a hands on developing event. If participants would like to bring their computers or devices, they’re welcome. Participants will be given access to the API (application programming interface) at some point during the day. Our TransLink staff would like to hear from the developer community about whey need information wise in order to build apps and websites that regular riders will find useful. During the day, participants will be able to converse in a group and/or chat with TransLink staff involved with the API one on one.

Once the day is done, TransLink will try to deliver the information that many developers think would help their work. Our pursuit is supply information that our riders want.

Releasing data to the developer community is a tradition we have at TransLink. The previous proliferation of apps based on our old scheduled  transit data is proof of this.

If you’re a developer and are interested in helping us help you build a transit app or website using our real-time transit data, you’ll want to do the following before July 18:

Send an email with the word “API Camp” in the subject field to thebuzzer@translink.ca

Include your name and telephone number

Please indicate if you have any food allergies (We’ll be providing lunch)

Check out the Google Group for TransLink Developers before the session to get ‘up to speed’

This is a great way for us to work with the developer community once again. The camp is the same day as I Love Transit Night, so if you want to stick around for the event, we’d love to see you there!