HSR relaunches improved online trip planner; SMS alerts coming soon

According to a release from the City of Hamilton, over the coming weeks, this real-time information will be available across five service channels: web, phone, Twitter, digital signage at terminals and a new SMS text feature.

The updated trip planner website hsrnow.hamilton.ca is now mobile-enabled, accessible regardless of the device or browser. Customers will be able to use the website to set up alerts to be sent to them for their favourite routes or stop numbers. Alerts can be customized based on time of day, day of week and they can be sent via email or SMS text (or both).

SMS text (which has not yet launched) will be a new option for customers, enabling them to find out when they can expect their next bus at any given stop. The city anticipates this to be a very popular option, particularly for those who only have texting plans for their phones, including many youth and students.

The relaunched trip planner and upcoming SMS alerts join the existing Bus Check telephone information system and the @HSRnow Twitter account. While the city’s release also touts digital signage at terminals which provide real-time information, these are only available at the MacNab Transit Terminal and have yet to be rolled out to anywhere else in the city.

The online trip planner is much improved from the previous iteration, which was neither mobile nor user friendly. The new planner is both of these. While it is sometimes a bit clunky and sluggish, and feels less fluid than other mobile app options, the planner functions adequately.

You sign up for an account and you can also select a favourite route, plus service alerts. The planner shows real-time locations of buses based on a predictive location. When the real-time data updates the location also refreshes which makes the bus appear to reverse a few blocks if it ia behind schedule.

The trip planner also has the same issues as every trip planner I have used with regards to effective trip planning, resulting is ludicrous trip suggestions. Usually one suggestion makes sense while others involve pointless transfers or needless extra walking.

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The planner directs you to pass the transfer stop and then to walk two blocks back.

The planner directs you to pass the transfer stop and then to walk two blocks back.