By Natasha Moroz
TransLink recently debuted a new project aimed at improving accessibility for its riders and will launch this February and will run for 6 months. TransLink is piloting this new technology to make it easier for customers with sight loss to navigate the transit system. Customers in specific locations selected for the pilot can use the ‘NaviLens’ app on their smartphone to receive audio and haptic cues to help find their bus stop and receive other updates.
TransLink explains the technology as a “system that is enabled by the installation of 16 coded decals in the pilot area, which can be read using the NaviLens app to up to 14 metres away, depending on the angle of detection.” Customers are provided information regarding the exact pickup point, arrival times, and service alerts, as well as directions and information to essential facilities such as elevators. Impressive as well is that the program is not limited to French or English, but has a total of 34 language settings.
The locations of these codes seem to be well thought out and well-informed. The ten NaviLens codes will be set up at New Westminster SkyTrain Station bus bays, four at bus stops near the Canadian National Institute for the Blind office in New Westminster, and two at bus stops near the Vancouver Community College (VCC) campus on East Broadway in Vancouver.
This project ultimately aims to make transit more accessible for its riders. TransLink explained that they will be seeking feedback from participants in case the program is reintroduced in the future. This program is especially important since not all blind or partially sighted people read
braille, and this is a modern and fairly accessible alternative. The CEO of TransLink, Kevin Quinn, explained that “by bringing this advanced way-finding technology to Canada for the first time, we’re aiming to create a more inclusive experience and empower our riders to navigate the transit system with ease and safety”.
It is this effort to empower riders, enhance accessibility, and improves safety along the journey that is really exciting. As a pedestrian advocacy group, we often focus on improving walking and rolling through our city. However, many pedestrians are also occasional or regular BC Transit users. Getting to and from the bus and our destination is not often a door-to-door experience. We still need to be able to maintain a safe and accessible journey through various means of transportation.
We wanted to highlight this improvement as it is inspiring to see such a thoughtful and supportive resource being provided. Though the pilot project and its technology largely focus on providing information relating to the journey on the bus, it provides real-time service alerts and accessibility information. The technology appears to support users before and after catching the bus. This technology could be expanded and used to assist riders in navigating into or out of a transit hub or provide accessibility information relating to the bus stop’s condition. I believe this sort of technology and infrastructure can support not only the bus rider but the pedestrian as they get off the bus or head to their stop. There are many ways this project can be expanded upon to provide a journey that is safer and more inclusive and can go
beyond bus arrival times. This technology could be very useful in navigating the major transit hubs in our city, such as at UVic or major bus stops downtown.
This project is exciting as it is a thoughtful step forward in providing safe and inclusive transportation. This type of initiative is sure to benefit pedestrians, and at the very least opens the discussion to how we can improve the ways we get around and how others get around. We are looking forward to seeing how this project performs and what the final results and conclusions are.
TransLink: https://www.translink.ca/plans-and-projects/projects/maintenance-and-upgrade program/bus-projects#accessible-navigation-project CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/translink-pilot-project-sight loss-1.6708531