BC Transit is slowly rolling out real-time tracking technology on its buses in Victoria.
As a part of the soft launch, passengers will already notice updated location announcement displays on some buses, and by late spring 2019 they will be able to track their bus live through their cellphones.
The update comes as part of a $27 million smart bus upgrade program from the federal government, which is part of the $136 million joint funding put forward by federal, provincial and local governments to upgrade 790 buses.
A total of $6 million will go towards the real-time tracking technology in seven communities, including Victoria, while $21 million will go towards a new cashless fare system and GPS tracking in 16 other communities.
“It’ll be different than what’s in Vancouver which uses a Compass Card, a smart card technology that needs a physical card,” said Christy Ridout, vice-president of business development at BC Transit. “We’re leapfrogging over that technology entirely; we won’t be using cards per se, but leverage smart phones in a bring-your-own-ticket kind of platform.”
Ridout said the yet-to-be-developed app would allow passengers to upload their fares onto their phones, and either scan or tap their phone when boarding a bus, much like the system at airports that allow you to display your boarding pass through your phone.
While a request for proposal (RFP) for the cashless system was only launched last week, Ridout said BC Transit hopes to be able to integrate the new system with other systems, such as Vancouver’s Compass Card system.
People will still be able to pay with cash on the upgraded buses, Ridout added, and $5 day passes will also still be available through the app.
“The cash boxes are not going away, not everybody has a phone,” Ridout said. “There are going to be options available to customers, because this is all about increasing options.”
While fares are controlled at a municipal level, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission has opted to not look at a fare increases at this time.
Ridout said BC Transit is optimistic that the cashless fare system will be installed and operating in all BC Transit buses in Victoria in early 2020.