EDITORIAL: Transit upgrades focus on commuter concerns

BC Transit is embracing technology to make getting around Greater Victoria easier for commuters. Transit is taking steps to eliminate some of the obstacles that prevent many from becoming regular transit riders.

Not knowing when the next bus might arrive and then scrambling to find the correct fare when it does is a problem encountered by more than a few who use transit to get around the Capital Region.

But if all goes according to plan, those problems could soon be a thing of the past.

READ MORE: Victoria will be the first city with GPS tracking, digital fare on BC transit buses

Greater Victoria residents will soon be able to track BC Transit buses in real-time, allowing passengers to track their bus through their cellphones. The update, expected to be in place by late spring, is part of a $27 million smart bus upgrade program through the federal government – which is just a part of $136 million rolled out by federal, provincial and local governments to upgrade 790 buses.

The real-time tracking represents only a small portion of the smart bus upgrade, with $21 million going towards a new cashless fare system. That system will be different from Metro Vancouver’s Compass Card, with Greater Victoria riders able to purchase fares through their smartphones, which can then be used as a boarding pass. The cashless fare system is expected to be installed on all Capital Region buses by early next year.

ALSO READ: BC Transit does final testing for live bus tracking app

The upgrades mean that a smartphone is all transit users will need to navigate around Greater Victoria. If the steps to ease travel by transit brings the expected boost to ridership, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission might be able to expand routes and increase service that will encourage more to leave the car behind.

Greater Victoria commuters are trapped in a cycle, with a lack of adequate route coverage preventing many from hopping on the bus – resulting in a lack of ridership numbers to justify enhanced service.

This smart technology upgrade might be the first spark that gets the wheels rolling on a transit service that will benefit all Greater Victoria residents.

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