BC Transit takes cue from ride-share apps; launches on-demand services in Kelowna

Even Kelowna’s bus system is adapting to technological shifts that bring travel needs to the palm of an individual’s hand.
As promised this time last year, BC Transit is bringing “on demand” bus service to Kelowna’s Crawford neighbourhood. The aim, according to president and CEO of BC Transit Aaron Pinkerton, is to offer services where they are needed and lure more people to use public transit.“Basically the way I described it is there’s no route and there’s no schedule so customers tell us where they want to go within the zone that we’ve identified,” Pinkerton said.“Then we tell them when the bus is going to come pick them up at a stop close to their house. So it’s flexible transit and you can use an app or call in to (book) your trip.”

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This “dynamic and flexible” service is the first of its kind in B.C. and Pinkerton said they’re trying it out in Kelowna due to a long-standing successful partnership and its ongoing population growth. Also, it may help get areas that are not as likely to use the service to have a change of heart. Story continues below advertisement

“Crawford is an area that right now has not had the highest frequency of service, not the highest ridership,” Pinkerton said.

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“So it’s a way for us to try to grow service grow ridership in an area that isn’t traditionally serviced by high frequency.”

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The goal, he added, would be to bring riders to the transit exchange, and then allow the residents to travel throughout the rest of the transit network.

Matthew Boyd, BC Transit’s director of corporate and strategic planning, said the plan is to launch the service April 28, and he thinks that riders will appreciate the flexibility.“Imagine someone’s sitting at home and they need to go to a destination at a particular time, so what they do is they load up the application, choose the time,” Boyd said.Then they’d be expected to walk to the suggested stop. The bus app will give a notice of impending arrival 15, then five minutes ahead of time.“During that time, the customer is able to track the bus on the app very similar to ride-sharing apps that you see currently,” he said.He said within the Crawford zone, there are more than 100 virtual bus stops where people can stop and there are also the traditional bus stops. Story continues below advertisement

The on-demand service is being funded by BC Transit and the City of Kelowna. If successful, the service could expand to other locations and communities around the province.

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