On the surface, a new online transit planning tool announced by the City of Kamloops and B.C. Transit may not seem to many people to be much of a big deal. It is revolutionary, however, and offers tremendous additional service, especially considering the cost. (It's free.) All who made this project happen should be proud.
The online service, offered through Google Maps, gives riders new ability to plan bus trips through Kamloops.
This tool won't appeal to people who take the bus at the same times every day and travel to the same place.
What's most important for them is that their bus is on time and gets them to their destination as promised.
The new tool's strength is the means it gives people to go some place they have never gone before. Say, for example, that you live in Juniper Ridge and want to visit the Aberdeen Mall by bus.
In the past, you were required to dig up the schedules (online or in brochures), find the right routes, and co-ordinate in your mind different routes and transfers to make the trip.
The printed tables of times and stops are confusing and take determination to read. The time and effort needed to figure out how to get around in Kamloops by bus - especially for new riders - is daunting. The new online tool makes it easy. Enter your address and where you want to go and the new tool tells you what stop to be at and when, what bus to take, where you will transfer and how long the whole trip will last.
Erin Felker, the City's transportation manager, said the Google Map tool is the end result of several months of work involving both the City and B.C. Transit. The City had the geographic data about stops while B.C. Transit had the schedules.
Both were joined together and passed in special format to Google, which incorporated the information into its Google Maps trip planner.
Felker said she is thrilled to see the new functionality, noting it represents "a huge leap" for transit service in Kamloops.
"Huge" is an understatement. Kamloops residents, for the first time, have a chance to properly plan to explore the city by bus. A significant hurdle to access has been removed, making it harder for people to say transit does not serve their needs.
There is one downside to the new tool, however - it highlights in painful fashion how inadequate the actual bus service can at times be in Kamloops.
The new tool, for example, reveals that the previously mentioned trip from Juniper Ridge to the mall will take one hour and seven minutes on a weekday morning. A return trip on a weekend at 6 p.m. takes one hour and 21 minutes.
But the number and frequency of bus trips in Kamloops is a different problem, one that does not take away from the usefulness of this tool. Progress comes one step at a time.
Check out the tool, by visiting the B.C. Transit site at www.bctransit.com/regions/kam/ or go straight to Google Maps and start from there.
© Kamloops Daily News