(Black Press file photo)

(Black Press file photo)

Bus connection to SkyTrain system coming to Abbotsford, Chilliwack this month

FVX bus will connect riders to Lougheed Town Centre starting March 27

The Fraser Valley Express (FVX) will soon connect bus passengers to the SkyTrain system at Lougheed Town Centre.

BC Transit has informed the Fraser Valley Regional District that the connection between the two systems will start on March 27. It means that transit customers in Chilliwack and Abbotsford can plan a more seamless trip into and out of the cities served by SkyTrain.

The Lougheed station has two TransLink SkyTrain lines – Millennium and Expo – and is one of the best-served and busiest RapidBus exchanges in the region. There is also easy access to nearby pedestrian and cycling routes.

The extension of the FVX, known as Route 66, was approved in the 2021-2022 provincial budget.

The change is one of several improvements being made this year by BC Transit. They have also started to roll out an initiative called NextRide, and are introducing an electronic fare collection program.

There is no firm date for the arrival of NextRide in the Fraser Valley, but it has rolled out in some areas of the province already. The first community was Cowichan Valley in January. It allows riders to see where the bus is along any route, and gives predicted arrival times at any selected stop on their computers, cell phones and other devices.

Eventually all communities served by BC Transit will have NextRide running. The program by BC Transit features Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technology, which reports bus information, such as location, speed, and stops by getting data from global positioning system satellites, installed on its transit buses.

“It’s great to see the successful NextRide program being rolled out across the province,” said Rob Fleming, minister of Transportation and Infrastructure when NextRide rolled out in January. “State-of-the-art technology like this will enhance the user experience, encourage more people to leave their cars at home and help rebuild transit ridership as we emerge from COVID-19.”

BC Transit recently signed a contract with Consat for this project, with a goal is to enhance customer experience and increase ridership. The AVL technology will be installed on approximately 315 buses operating on all conventional, fixed routes in B.C.

The phase of the program also includes onboard, automated stop announcements that call out stops to customers riding the buses, which is also intended to increase comfort and convenience, while improving the overall accessibility for many using transit. SkyTrains already have a similar call out system.

Through BC Transit, the AVL technology will provide bus location data to mobility providers like Google Maps and BC Transit’s partner Transit App, so its customers can track and monitor bus routes using their application of choice.

The NextRide project is funded through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

This project is being cost shared with the federal government contributing 50 per cent, the province contributing 40 per cent and local government partners contributing the remaining 10 per cent.

The projected cost for NextRide being installed in these additional transit systems is nearly $6 million.

“Expanding the NextRide program will improve the customer experience, increase safety for riders and drivers, improve accessibility for users and provide important data for better route planning that will benefit customers across the province,” said Tim Croyle, vice president of operations and CEO of BC Transit.

There will be a few changes local riders should be aware of.

In order to implement NextRide in the Fraser Valley, BC Transit needs to adjust and group together scheduling data from the various Fraser Valley systems. Route numbers in the Abbotsford, Chilliwack and FVRD systems had some duplicates, so some are being renumbered.

In addition to the launch of the FVX extension, two additional week day and two additional Saturday trips will be added to the existing schedule. Trip times will be adjusted to optimize service for customers, and a detailed preview schedule is now available for the Central Fraser Valley and Chilliwack, so customers can begin trip planning.

“This valued expansion shows what can be done when communities and government agencies work together to improve transit options for Fraser Valley residents,” said Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun.

-with files from Robert Barron, Black Press

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