TransLink issues open call to make waiting for bus or Skytrain more pleasant

TransLink has issued an open call for submissions to make waiting for the bus or SkyTrain more pleasant — although it won’t include large investments into brick-and-mortar projects to make that happen.

Kevin Desmond, the regional transportation authority’s CEO, says the goal of the open call is to partner with the private sector, students or academics to come up with better ideas than the transit authority could on its own.

“We want to tap into innovators who can move a lot faster than we can as a public organization,” Desmond said.

Desmond points to projects like Google Maps and the Transit App — which use open-source data on bus and train routes to help people plan their trips —  as successful public-private partnerships that help transit customers without costing TransLink any money.

The successful proposal for the open call will get support from TransLink in the form of funding to develop the project and access to TransLink data or information. 

But Desmond says the open call likely won’t fund brick-and-mortar projects that also affect transit users’ experiences — like washrooms, for example. Those are part of a different project underway.

While the open call may not fund new washrooms, Desmond says it may fund an app that helps connect transit users to public washrooms near transit hubs. 

The goal of the open call is to stretch the agency’s money by partnering with an external agency or person, Desmond says. That way TransLink can focus its money on operating more trains and buses. 

“More and more, public organizations are going to be reaching out to private sector and private sector innovators to come up with great new ideas,” he said. 

Focus on core services

Mike Soron, founding director of public transportation advocacy group Abundant Transit, says he’s onboard with TransLink stretching its dollars to create better experiences for its users. 

However, he noted that safe, secure, comfortable washroom facilities for people should not be considered innovations. “That should be considered a core responsibility of TransLink.” 

Soron agrees that the private sector is better poised to find innovative technical solutions — and accept the financial risks of doing so.

This is the second open call TransLink has issued. Last year it focused on the theme “seamless mobility.”

The successful proposal was a partnership between car and bicycle-sharing companies Modo, Evo and Mobi to provide their services at transit hubs so people can easily switch from one form of transportation to another. 

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