Kamloops bus system to use Google Maps

Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω

TRUSU president Dustin McIntyre, mayor Peter Milobar, Kamloops - North Thompson MLA Terry Lake and B.C. Transit CEO Manuel Achadinha annouce the setting up of Google Transit in Kamloops. - Photo by Devan C. Tasa

TRUSU president Dustin McIntyre, mayor Peter Milobar, Kamloops – North Thompson MLA Terry Lake and B.C. Transit CEO Manuel Achadinha annouce the setting up of Google Transit in Kamloops. – Photo by Devan C. Tasa

Finding out when to take the bus to get to a destination is now as simple as getting directions in Google Maps.

Kamloops is the fourth B.C. community, after Whistler, Victoria and Vancouver, to launch Google Transit, a trip-planning tool that can tell a person using Google Maps which bus routes to take at which time to get to a location. The tool was officially introduced at a press conference in TRUSU’s boardroom on Jan. 7.

Terry Lake, MLA for Kamloops – North Thompson, told the room the free tool was innovative, helping students and families with their daily commute.

“It combines the latest B.C. Transit schedule and route information with the power of Google Maps,” he said.

Dustin McIntyre, TRUSU’s president, said he thinks students will take advantage of the new tool.

“Students will use this function everyday whether they are going across town or if they’ve got to go to a doctor’s appointment,” he said. “[If] either you’re from Kamloops and you need to [use] transit or you’re an international student and you don’t know the system that well, it’s easy to turn it on and enter your destination.”

McIntyre said the students union has been lobbying for this type of tool ever since it was involved in consultations that led to a plan for Kamloops’ future transit expansion that was endorsed by city council in December 2011.

“We called upon them for an app for simple use online for our members here at Thompson Rivers University and B.C. Transit has come through,” he said. “We’re really excited about it.”

The president and CEO of B.C. Transit, Manuel Achadinha, said lobbying by students was one of the reasons it decided to adopt Google Transit.

“They’ve added a lot of pressure on the system, in terms of making it better,” he said. “One of the demands that the students have always had is they want better, faster information. Instead of looking at a paper schedule, they want something that can get on one of their smart devices. With the trip planner – by them demanding that – it’s put a lot of focus on us to get that introduced to Kamloops as quickly as possible.”

Achadinha said B.C. Transit started testing the technology 18 months ago. Before it could be applied to Kamloops, B.C. Transit had to wait until a plan detailing future transit expansion was in place and databases containing bus stop locations and schedules for Google to use were created.

Students are one of the largest users of the transit system, Achadinha said. The new tool is part of a long-term strategy towards this demographic.

“What we want to do is we want to make sure when a student graduates from university they continue to be a transit user,” he said. “One of the ways to do that is to meet their needs.”