Winnipeg Transit users will be able to request buses and track their location in real time.
Transit announced the new project for on-request service, which is intended to replace DART buses.
As of Aug. 12, riders will be able to order buses on demand using a smartphone app, web browser or 311. The app will provide users with real-time GPS updates showing buses’ locations. Wait times are expected to be five to 20 minutes and can change in real time depending on trip bookings and traffic and weather conditions.
"That definitely sounds helpful," said bus rider Allen Rey, as he waited at a stop on William Avenue.
Rey said the ability to know where buses are could save him a lot of waiting time, which would be a significant improvement, especially in winter.
But GPS locating will be limited to buses equipped with on-request technology, which is simply a smartphone mounted in front of the driver. Rey said he hopes Transit expands that capability to all buses. Just to know whether he’s missed a bus or there’s one coming soon could ease a lot of stress, he said.
Rey said the pilot project could be useful in one other way.
"(In) some areas you’ve got to be more careful, and having an on-demand bus is definitely going to help with that safety."
The one-year pilot project will be limited. Buses will respond to requests in three zones that cover areas around Southdale, St. Amant, Plaza Drive, Norwood and St. Boniface, Winnipeg Transit director Greg Ewankiw said.
Eight buses have been designated for the project, which will be re-evaluated after the trial.
Mayor Brian Bowman said he expects positive results.
"On-request or on-demand service delivery has been piloted or deployed in a number of Canadian cities, like Edmonton, Sault Ste. Marie, Stratford, Regina and Saskatoon," said the mayor. "While outcomes vary, the common theme we see being observed is increased service efficiency and decreased wait times for riders."
One bus rider, waiting at a stop in front of the Manitoba Museum, was skeptical.
"The city would do better to make the regular bus service better," said Linda Holub. The 71-year-old rides the bus to and from work every day, but said she doubts she’d ever use the on-request service. She’d prefer the city go in another direction: improving Winnipeg Transit Plus, the city-run transportation service for people with disabilities.
"My brother is paraplegic," she said. "And (Winnipeg Transit Plus) is a joke. It’s unbelievable. One time they couldn’t wait for five minutes while he was getting his wheelchair fixed, and they took off and they left us out there. Cost me $35 for a taxi."
Several other bus riders voiced support for the pilot project but doubted they’d use it.
The app will be available Aug. 6.