B.C. Transit’s new website keeps pace with technology

Local News
—Nikki Koutsochilis (photo)

B.C. Transit is rolling out a new website designed for easy navigation and compatibility with portable devices. A media advisory was issued on Oct. 9 asking for public input on the new site, which is being phased in through a trial link on the current site.

Since then, reviews and suggestions have been pouring in about the new navigation and mobile-friendly design. Riders will now be able to check schedules and plan trips while they’re on the go.

“We’ve implemented something called ‘responsive design,’” said B.C. Transit website project lead Cam Inouye in a phone interview with the Martlet, “so when the website is viewed on a [device] it will scale down accordingly so that it can still be useful and viewed [effectively].” The site also has location recognition, meaning the site will recognize where you are. If it doesn’t, location can be manually changed.

Other improvements on the current, aging site are layout and navigation: “We’ve put the focus on the customer as opposed to someone who’s not riding the bus,” said Inouye. “So all the corporate information we put to the bottom of the page, and all the stuff to do with schedules, maps, and fares [has been placed] at the top.” Rider alerts and the Google Maps trip planner are now integrated onto the main page as well.

The website’s development is being guided by an advisory committee, of which UVSS Research and Communications Co-ordinator, Ben Johnson, is a member. Johnson also helped with a public survey regarding the new website which gained about 1,800 responses from UVic students.

In an email with the Martlet, Johnson said the new site “should resolve a lot of issues that students had with the old site, as well as putting forward a lot of useful tweaks and improvements that we hadn’t even thought of.” The committee includes members from the Ministry of Transportation, the Capital Regional District, regional partners who provide bus service, and bus drivers. “We were trying to get a good cross-section of stakeholders,” said John Barry, communications manager for B.C. Transit.

To adhere to standards for accessibility, B.C. Transit sought the advice of accesibility advocacy groups such as the Social Planning and Research Council and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind—organizations that provide advice and expertise on improving accessibility  for people with disabilities. “All that input helped design a site that is going to meet the needs of a variety of users and audiences,” Barry added.

The $1 million project also comes with improved efficiencies. B.C. Transit will be able to make their own basic updates to the site instead of communicating the changes to a webmaster. Printing costs for rider’s guides could also decrease as more people use their smartphone to plan trips, instead of using the printed schedule.

B.C. Transit services the entire province, except for the Metro Vancouver area, which is serviced by Translink. This includes about 130 communities through 59 local governments. The goal for the official launch of the website is the end of the year, but that will be determined by the ongoing feedback. According to Barry, B.C. Transit wants to allow ample time for people to give feedback and get used to the new layout and navigation. “That way it doesn’t come as much of a surprise for the users when we get to the point of launching it,” he said.

The new website may have some limited information and functionality while in development. There is an email for feedback and suggestions to the development team on the preview site at preview.bctransit.com/victoria/.