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Translink Buzzer Blog

Category: Web and Mobile Offerings

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 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 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!

The old homepage for!

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 into 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


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, 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

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!



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 (part of 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.


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, 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 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 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

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 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.