IMC Newsdesk

Tool tracks bus occupancy for Canadian passengers

  • June 23, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson
The Société de transport de Laval launches a new tool that tells users how crowded their bus should be. It provides an estimate of the number of passengers you should expect not only when you board, but also during the course of your entire commute – a first in Canada. STLaval.ca/passengers ©Société de transport de Laval (CNW Group/Société de transport de Laval)

Canada’s Société de Transport de Laval (STL) is using its web site to tell travellers how crowded their bus should be. It provides an estimate of the number of passengers they should expect not only when they board, but also during the course of the entire bus trip.
 
The Covid-19 pandemic has made social distancing in public transit situations a core concern for users. This tool will enable them to make informed decisions depending on bus crowdedness based on their comfort level.
 
STL vehicles have been equipped with GPS technology and passenger counters for years. Each day, they record occupancy levels at each bus stop, for each bus route and at each scheduled bus time. The data are then used to calculate an estimate of how many passengers are on the bus at a specified stop and at a specific time, based on the average trending during the five previous days. The calculations are updated daily. For now, estimates will be available for weekday bus service only.
 
The current release is a beta version, which will be improved based on user experiences and comments.
 
To find the expected bus crowdedness, users select bus route and direction, starting bus stop, destination bus stop and departure time. Based on this, the tool posts the maximum number of passengers they should expect on the bus for all of their day’s trips.
 
The information is shown on a colour gradient ranging from light (low occupancy) to dark (more crowded). A map of bus stops provides an estimate of how many passengers will be on the bus along each stop of the selected commute. There is a timeline of the estimated number of passengers on the bus along each stop.
 
A pie chart shows the number of minutes and percentage of trip spent with X passengers. And there is a detailed list of bus stops, scheduled bus times and expected bus crowdedness.

The Société de transport de Laval launches a new tool that tells users how crowded their bus should be. It provides an estimate of the number of passengers you should expect not only when you board, but also during the course of your entire commute – a first in Canada. STLaval.ca/passengers ©Société de transport de Laval (CNW Group/Société de transport de Laval)

“Since the project was already in the pipeline, we decided to push up the launch to make it available to users as soon as possible,” said STL board president Éric Morasse. “Which is why this is a beta release for now, and the STL is asking everyone for their feedback, comments and suggested improvements that we will integrate as we move forward. We believe in the role public transit plays in supporting the reopening of the economy, but we also know it is no longer always possible to social distance on buses. Together with continuing to insist on the importance of wearing a mask, this new tool will enable Laval residents to make fully informed decisions about their bus commutes.”
 
In May, the STL rolled out a survey process intended to take the pulse of its users periodically. The findings show that 64% of respondents are worried of resuming using public transit and that for 49% of respondents the main worry is social distancing on buses.
 
The STL develops and operates an integrated network consisting of buses, school transport, shared taxis and paratransit transport which combine for more than 19 million trips per year. The STL’s regular bus network consists of 46 routes and 2700 stops, and covers over 1400km across the Laval territory.