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Blind advocate applauds improved technology on RDN buses

Parksville, BC, Canada / 88.5 The Beach

NANAIMO — There will likely be shorter wait times at mid-island bus stops, thanks to newly launched GPS tracking technology.

NextRide real-time bus location technology is now operational system-wide on most RDN buses between Cedar and Qualicum Beach, showing where buses are in the route and its estimated time of arrival at a stop.

Brandon Miller, the Regional District of Nanaimo’s supt. of fleet and transit service delivery, said the new program goes a long way in reducing anxiety for their customers and increasing trip efficiency.

“Now you don’t have to be wondering where’s the bus, if it’s late, if it’s early.”

Miller said the Automatic Vehicle Location technology is easily accessible online, and can send alerts when a bus is five or 10 minutes away from a stop of your choice.

Major bus terminals, such as the Woodgrove Shopping Centre exchange, have signs showing arrival times. The buses also have arrival signs and a voice telling riders about the next stop.

Local blind advocate Richard Harlow, who lost his central vision in 2010, said he found riding buses in Nanaimo difficult and stressful since he sometimes didn’t know where he was.

Harlow recently experienced for the first time what bus he was getting on and where he was supposed to get off.

“I smiled because it has finally come to Nanaimo,” Harlow told NanaimoNewsNOW. “I got to learn about all of the stops along that route that I didn’t even know were there, it was just an amazing experience.”

Harlow said he used to avoid off-beat routes and instead stick to familiar terrain where he memorized bumps on the road, lighting conditions or familiar turns.

He said other members of the vision impaired community are extremely excited about accessible bus services and not having to rely on phone apps or bugging the drivers and passengers for info. on the mid-island.

“We have the tool now to get from point A to point B now, this is a big deal.”

The NextRide program is now set up on all 50 compressed natural gas buses and four smaller community buses.

RDN transit officials are exploring the possibility of mobile technology for fare payment in the future.

The RDN is the first to have NextRide implemented, followed by six other regions in the coming months, including Victoria and the Comox Valley.

 

Ian Holmes

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