After some significant delays, college and university students should be able to use Google Trip Planner when they go back to class this fall to help them navigate Greater Sudbury Transit's bus routes.
When the service is in place, Sudbury will join other cities in Ontario in offering riders the service, including other northern cities such as North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.
“We're very close,” said Roger Sauvé, director of Sudbury Transit, in an interview Wednesday.
Google Trip Planner allows users to enter the address where they are now, and the address they want to go. The app tells users what routes they need to take, when the next bus is scheduled to leave and when it's scheduled to arrive at the destination.
As it stands now, Transit users have to know where the nearest bus stop is, as well as the route number for that stop. Then they have to figure out from online route maps which buses cover their stop, and how often.
And if it's one of the days Transit is operating on a reduced schedule, users also have to figure out if the route is still serviced on that day, and what the schedule for the day is.
While other apps have made figuring out where to catch the bus and when easier, the Google planner is user friendly and offers real-time information.
Sauvé said they had the new system “99 per cent complete” late in 2013, when their planner quit to take a job somewhere else. That meant a new person had to be found and trained before the process could begin again.
“We hired someone in April,” he said. “I was just talking (to her) today, and her target has always been by the start of this new school year, for the colleges and universities.”
In addition to upgrading their service, Sauvé said they have been getting ready for the big consolidation that's coming in September, when transit sites across the city will be centralized in the new garage on Lorne Street.
“Moving all of our mechanics from six locations into one, that's been a significant project that took quite a bit of time,” he said. “We're redoing all of our work assignments to get ready for the move. That's a big job.”
Transit is also looking at expanding the use of airport-style route arrival and departure time screens, similar to one already in use at Health Sciences North.
“They have a display board that shows all the routes that go by the front of the hospital,” Sauve said in an interview earlier this year. “It runs off of our real-time information and shows, to the minute, when the bus is going to be there. (We want) to set up more of those in key areas of the city — the university, the two colleges, shopping centres, places like that.”