Manitoba

Winnipeg Transit rolls out free Wi-Fi on select buses

Winnipeg Transit kicked off a new pilot project Thursday that will provide free Wi-Fi access on selected city buses over the next year.

Pilot program brings Wi-Fi to 12 city buses on rotating routes

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman officially launched a pilot program that will see free Wi-Fi made available on 12 city buses starting Thursday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg Transit officially kicked off a new pilot project Thursday that will provide free Wi-Fi access on selected city buses over the next year.

The $300,000 project will see Wi-Fi available on 12 city buses, which will rotate through various city routes over the pilot period.

Mayor Brian Bowman said the technology will not only improve the rider experience, but could also be used to make buses safer by providing a faster connection for audio and video surveillance.

"Our transit service is a significant touchpoint many residents have with their city," Bowman said at a press conference.

"It's a service many residents rely on daily, and as such we need to be providing them with an efficient, well-functioning and safe transit service."

The 12 Wi-Fi-enabled buses will run on a variety or routes throughout the day. Each will be be clearly marked so passengers know the service is available on the bus. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Bowman said the technology could also be used to provide live updates on actual bus locations for better schedule information.

Bowman committed to bringing Wi-Fi to city buses when he ran for mayor in 2014. He announced the pilot project last September.

Funding for the project came from leftover cash from 2016's innovation capital fund, money set aside for projects that employ new technology or make city processes more efficient.

Mixed reviews

Reviews of the plan were mixed among transit riders CBC News spoke to Thursday.

Chelsea Pietryka, 19, said she'd be worried about her online security using an open Wi-Fi network on a city bus.

"It seems like a good idea … but it could end up being risky," she said. "There's a lot of hackers out there. It's 2018 — everyone's on the internet with either their data or free Wi-Fi."

Chelsea Pietryka, 19, has concerns about online security using an open Wi-Fi network on city buses. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Matthew Thompson, 20, says having free access on his long bus route will be "awesome" and he says it will keep money in his pocket.

"I live in Unicity so it's an hour and a half to get to the [University of Manitoba]," he said. "I have to use data on my phone so I have to pay a lot of money for data, but if it they supply Wi-Fi on buses, I don't have to pay anything."

Michael Legary, the City of Winnipeg's chief innovation officer, says the quality of the Wi-Fi service offered during the pilot is designed to allow riders to send texts and communicate and likely won't be strong enough to stream movies, but he adds signal strength will depend on how many riders are connected.

As for security, Legary said riders should expect the same level of privacy they'd expect while using the internet or Wi-Fi currently available at city libraries.

Michael Legary, the city’s chief innovation officer, says the pilot program will look at how Wi-Fi on buses may improve Transit's Peggo payment system. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Legary said Winnipeg Transit will also use the pilot to see if having Wi-Fi on buses can help solve the problems facing the Peggo payment system, which has been plagued with problems since launching in 2016.

"We're going to be testing the real-time access," he said. "So we're going to see, can we use this technology to allow you to purchase [fares on a Peggo card] and immediately use it on the bus."

At the end of the pilot, Winnipeg Transit will report back to the innovation committee about usage patterns, and how the technology can be used to improve security and safety issues on buses, said Bowman.

Buses offering free Wi-Fi are clearly marked. Riders can also use online tools such as the Navigo Trip Planner, Telebus and the Winnipeg Transit website to determine if their bus is Wi-Fi equipped.

Bus riders now have access to WiFi on select Winnipeg Transit buses. The $300,000 project puts the technology on twelve buses that will rotate through routes across the city. 2:12

With files from Marianne Klowak