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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Reduce bus waits using an ordinary cellphone

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Photo courtesy of Richard Eriksson

So you’re out fairly late at night and you want to take the bus home. You see a bus stop but there’s no schedule on it and no one else standing there. Is it worth the wait? How do you know? If you have a cell phone, now you can find out instantly!

TransLink introduced the Next Bus free texting service last December, and I’ve been an avid user ever since. It’s very simple – just send a text message with your bus stop number to 33333. In about five seconds you get a message back with the next six buses that are scheduled to arrive at your stop. If more than one route uses the stop, and you only want to see that particular route, add a space after the stop number and then type in the route number.

So to be clear, here’s what you do if you’re at stop #58136:

Step 1) If want all routes, type 58136. If you want just one route, add a space and then the route number. So to find route #10 at this stop, you would type: 58138 10

Step 2) Send to 33333

That’s it – and if you keep the message, you have it available on your phone whenever you want. What I do is put 33333 into my speed dial as ‘Next Bus’, then just send a text message to ‘Next Bus’ with whatever stop number I happen to be at.

It’s a stunningly useful feature that’s actually been available online for some time. Just click on the Next Bus button in the top right corner of the TransLink home page Previously you had to know your stop number, but now you can also enter the nearest intersection and then choose the appropriate stop. I have a feeling they added that feature at the same time Next Bus went mobile. If you don’t want to send a text message, you can also phone for your next bus by calling 604-953-3333 and then entering your stop number. That service is also available 24/7.

Next Bus is a very useful service, but something even cooler is coming down the pipeline. Once GPS systems are installed on all TransLink buses sometime in ‘08, the text messages will give you the actual arrival times. Now that is the holy grail for this bus rider.


John Calimente is the president of Rail Integrated Developments. He supports great mass transit, cycling, walking, transit integrated developments, and non-automobile urban life. Click here to follow TheTransitFan on Twitter.