A GoBus user in St. John’s says a number of improvements need to be made to the system’s new booking app.
Released in August for GoBus, Metrobus’ paratransit program, the smartphone app was designed to make booking a GoBus easier and more efficient.
But Mandy Penney says her experience has been anything but easy.
Penney, who uses a power chair, said while she does enjoy some new features of the app, namely, the ability to tell when your bus is on the way and who your driver is, she said the new system is wrought with glitches that are impacting her quality of life.
“I ended up reducing my outings for the day because it’s just too difficult to do multiple outings per day,” she said.
Alternate departure times are one of the new features offered by the GoBus app. But Penney said those departure times are often hours before or after when someone may want to be picked up.
When the app gave her a wait time of four hours, Penney said she resorted to asking a friend for a ride to her medical appointment.
“It’s going to be even worse when the winter comes, because we know people won’t be able to go out using their mobility devices without public transportation,” Penney said, “so they’re going to do less outings.”
Another criticism Penney has is that the new system doesn’t provide a time of arrival at the destination, “which makes it hard to know when you’re going to arrive and [when] to book your return trip,” Penney said.
Then there’s the fact the app is only available for phones, and not computers.
“People who don’t have smartphones or data plans have to call and the wait times to reach GoBus through text or phone is hours long,” she said.
“I’m lucky that I can use the app or text, and I’m usually not in too much of a hurry, but I know a lot of people have been waiting hours, or they’re stranded.”
Judy Powell, general manager for Metrobus, says the new GoBus app is “meant to bring benefits to users, as well as to improve efficiency of the system.”
“With anything new, we expected bumps along the way,” she said.
The addition of alternate pick-up times was included “to give [users] options if they had some flexibility in their schedule.”
She said the alternate times have been reduced from one hour to 30 minutes.
“One of the biggest incentives for us to move to this type of software was to allow our customers to be able to book travel on the same day and when they want to travel without much notice,” Powell said.
Powell said the app programming stages included extensive consultations with GoBus users.
But Penney thinks those conversations could have gone further.
“I don’t think the city did very much public engagement with its users to see what they wanted, what they liked from the old app and what they were looking to improve upon,” she said.