Starting next week, Bowen Island will be the testing ground for a new on-demand bus service.
The transit authority hopes the project will give it information and experience that could be used to set up “on-demand” transit in other low-density areas of the region.
“The program has the potential to improve customer experience by enriching the traditional public transport offer, diversifying the service portfolio, creating new channels of communication, and providing a more convenient service in lower-density, lower-demand areas,” states a recent TransLink staff report.
The first phase of the project began in December and ran until the end of May and was essentially a beta test of the ride-booking software. During that time, ten people downloaded the TapRide smartphone app and used it to track their bus in real-time and tell the driver where they wished to get on and off the bus. The testers completed weekly surveys.
The next phase begins on July 8 and TransLink will add two community shuttles to Bowen Island to respond exclusively to on-demand ride requests. The existing fixed-route service — the 280, 281 and 282 — will continue to run as usual.
People on Bowen will reserve pickups and drop-offs through the TapRide app, online, or by phoning into a hotline. The service on weekdays will have fixed pickups at the ferry (4:45 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m., and 8:20 p.m.), while the weekend service will have flexible pickups and drop-offs.
“This pilot project can serve as an important test bed for what the future of public transit might look like across the province,” said Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink Bowinn Ma.