Vancouver has a reputation as a transit-friendly city. We’ve got the SkyTrain, whose fully automated cars can zip you across the city in no time. There’s the extensive bus system, the West Coast Express commuter rail and even the SeaBus linking downtown with North Vancouver.
But despite all of those options, taking mass transit can sometimes be intimidating, even for lifelong residents of the city. I find that it’s generally buses that present the biggest challenge. There are literally hundreds of routes in Vancouver’s bus system. Unless you’ve spent a lot of time studying transit maps, it’s hard to always know which bus to take, where to get on and how often the bus runs. And if you need to make a connection somewhere, things get even more complicated.
Of course, there is a really easy solution to all of that: the Trip Planner feature on the TransLink homepage. The Trip Planner isn’t new, but I wonder how many people really take advantage of it. I’m embarrassed to say that after riding Vancouver transit for years, I used the Trip Planner for the first time only recently. And I was really blown away by how easy and convenient it is.
All you do is type in where you’re leaving from and where you’re going to, as well as the estimated departure time and date. Then the Trip Planner takes care of the rest. You’re given a detailed list of transit options – which might include buses, trains and even walking based on your particular destination – to get you from point A to point B. The Trip Planner estimates the duration of the trip, tells you the number of transfers and gives you the total fare.
For example, say you want to get from the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park all the way out to Aberdeen Centre, the fascinating Asian-style mall in Richmond. This is a long trip and could easily intimidate even the most experienced of transit riders. But not with Trip Planner. Punch in the start and end points and a list of five transit options immediately comes up. The most direct requires just one transfer and takes only 48 minutes, which is not a whole lot longer than it takes driving (In case you’re wondering, Trip Planner recommends you hop on the 19 Metrotown Station bus in Stanley Park, then get out at downtown’s Waterfront Station and take the Canada Line SkyTrain to Aberdeen Station).
Is anyone else a fan of the Trip Planner feature on the TransLink website? If you’ve got a Trip Planner story, please share any comments below. And if you use other apps to navigate Vancouver’s transit system, let us know.