November 27, 2007
  

Translink Touts iMove Web Site As Congestion-Busting Tool

Matt Rosenberg

The regional transportation authority in Vancouver, B.C., Translink, today launched the operational Beta version of a new Web site called iMove that it says will integrate real-time traffic, construction and event data from across the region with transit routes and schedules, allowing motorists, commercial drivers and visitors to avoid roadway congestion, reduce stop-and-go traffic, save time and help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Future improvements will include adding more content, and making this "advanced traveller information system for the Lower Mainland" accessible on cell phones, other Internet-connected handheld devices, and via on-board vehicle information systems. These delivery modes are a necessity if iMove is to become broadly utilized and really make a difference.

According to a Translink announcement issued today:

iMove consolidates information on construction zones, motor vehicle crash sites, ferry and public transit schedules, cycling networks and conditions at airports and the Port of Vancouver on a single, real-time web site....iMove users are able to search particular routes, regions, and modes of transportation to get an up-to-the-minute picture of the traffic situation.

"An integrated transportation system is key to the entire functionality of Metro Vancouver," says TransLink chair Malcolm Brodie. "Developing a system to provide integrated transportation information is a principal element, and we're proud of our ITS professionals for the years of hard work they have put in to make this a reality." More than a tool for commuters, iMove addresses the longstanding need for transportation-dependent businesses to have up-to-the-minute information.

A wholly-owned Translink subsidiary, Intelligent Transportation Systems Corporation, developed iMove. It was built by Toronto-based Delcan. Funding of just more than $1 million (C$) came from Transport Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation, Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Port of Vancouver. Translink has committed another $210,000 for marketing, content development and operations. iMove draws on a Regional Condition Reporting System comprised of traffic, construction and event data coming initially from 15 different cities in the Vancouver region, plus Translink, the Port of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia. Information is displayed via Google Maps.

Site users will have access to 125 webcams in the Vancouver region and northwest Washington, showing traffic conditions at ferry terminals, the Port of Vancouver, major roadway chokepoints, highway interchanges and border crossings. Users are encouraged to give feedback to Translink on iMove here.

Here's my loonie's worth. I took the site for a quick test drive today, and it shows definite promise. What's most impressive, off the bat, is the regional scope and the possibilities for customizing the information you need.

Using pull-down menus from icons atop the map - labelled "events," "cameras," "roads," "transit," "commerical," "marine," "air," "rail," and "cycling" - you can customize your map display with locations of park and ride lots, light rail routes, car and foot ferry terminals, congestion hot spots, current traffic incidents, current construction, truck weigh stations, no haz-mat zones and more. Then you can click on the individual icons on your customized map for more information, such as incident details, the exact location of a park-and-ride lot, a foot ferry route and schedule or bicycle trails.

Based on my initial impressions, a few improvements are needed. For instance, to get a full mapping of current traffic incidents in a sub-section of the region, I had to hack about a bit, first clicking on "full screen map," then eventually hazarding a click on the body of that map, after which nine incident reports east of Surrey helpfully appeared. These were small brown triangular icons with an exclamation point, upon which you click for more details. However, most lacked any information on alternative routes, under "advice." I'm sure Translink plans on addressing this last part, it's quite early and they've noted there's still much content to be added. It will be important to prominently feature accurate and timely alternative vehicle route information across the site, or the congestion-busting premise is significantly weakened.

Additionally, though there's a minimally useful site map, iMove really needs a User Guide so site newbies and and the Web-fluent non-geeks can more quickly grasp navigation tools and get the value proposition. I'm not about to be jiggering a cell phone or PDA in my car to look at a traffic site - even before pulling out of my parking space - unless the navigation is a snap and the right data comes quickly.

But all told, it's a promising start. Congratulations to Translink for launching iMove. The trick now will be to bring the site to more users through savvy marketing, and upgrade it by listening carefully to feedback. Ensuring smooth data delivery to mobile and on-board devices will also be key.

Related:

"One Stop For Transport Info," Peace Arch News.

"TransLink To Launch New Web Site To Help Commuters Navigate," News 1130

"TransLink Now On The iMove," 24 Hours Vancouver.

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