Montreal

Want to know how crowded your Montreal-area bus is before getting on? There's an app for that

People who use public transit to get around the Montreal region will soon be able to find out how crowded buses and metro wagons are before they get onboard.

App lets people know if physical distancing will be possible on the next bus, train or Metro

A crowded bus isn't fun during the best of times, but it's certainly not a great idea during a pandemic. Chrono is designed to help, the ARTM says. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

People who use public transit to get around the Montreal region will soon be able to find out how crowded buses and metro wagons are — before they get onboard.

The region's transit authority — the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) — is launching a new feature for its Chrono app.

The app uses real-time and historical data to estimate the number of passengers riding the route, letting riders know if the bus is packed to the gills.

Estimates are provided using the passenger-counting technology that is already in place. 

Historical data is used to estimate the crowding of buses and metros to come later in the day so people can plan their trip according to how busy the transit service usually is at any given time.

The level of crowding is shown on a colour-coded scale to tell riders if there are plenty of seats or if it's standing-room only.

This is particularly handy in the context of a pandemic when people should avoid getting too close to one another, explained ARTM spokesperson Simon Charbonneau.

"If people are kind of worried and want to have an idea of what they are getting into when looking to plan a trip, well, it's pretty easy to do," he said.

"You can actually, from your home without going to the stop, look at what's happening for the next bus or the next couple of buses and plan your trip."

Soon people will be able to know how crowded Metro lines are in Montreal before they board, the ARTM says. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Expanding Chrono to other modes of transit

For now, the service is only available on STM and Exo buses, but the plan is to soon expand the app's reach to Laval's transit service (STL) in the coming weeks.

Eventually, the entire transit network in the metropolitan region will offer the service.

"We're actually in the test phase for the subway and the trains," Charbonneau said.

The ARTM owns and continues to develop the Chrono app in Montreal, which provides services such as on-the-go ticket purchasing with a mobile device.

It offers cyclists a route-planning service so they can find the fastest way to their destination and suggests alternate routes for drivers who need to detour around construction projects like the light-rail network.

It also points out which nearby BIXI stations have bikes available.

The app has some 45,000 users, Charbonneau said. People can make an account to personalize the app if they want, he said, or they can just use it as is without sharing their personal information.

With files from Josh Grant

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