Transport app sets Cayman’s public buses on right track

Whether you are a lifelong resident or a recent visitor to Grand Cayman, it does not take long to figure out the flaws in the island’s public transportation system.

Having lived in North Side for the better part of seven years, there were many days when I felt like catching a bus was an exercise in futility. There were days when I would have to walk to the junction of East End and North Side just to increase my chances of catching a bus and, even then, it was more often I would catch a glimpse of the rare and highly elusive agouti, before I would see any sign of a public bus.

For those who must embark on this daily quest, a new app called ‘K-Bus’ has launched to facilitate the process, by providing real-time GPS data for a few select buses across Grand Cayman.

There are two apps, one for bus drivers and another for passengers. I downloaded the passenger app; once installed, I found it was easy to set up and use.

Luke Berry is the president of the Cayman Islands Public Transport Operators Association and the developer of the app. He told the Compass he designed it “to help passengers and drivers more efficiently locate each other”.

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The app works off the Google maps platform and comes with a ‘nearby’ button feature, that opens up to shows buses that are in a two-mile radius. The buses are colour-coded based on their routes and the app indicates if there are any buses in your area as well as the general direction they are travelling. If you zoom out, you will be able to see the buses in use across the island.

“The buses that are participating have WiFi on board, and so a passenger will be able to see which of those buses are active,” said Berry.

A screengrab of the K-Bus passenger app.

While K-Bus is a first-of-its-kind app for Cayman, similar apps have long existed in major cities in North America and Europe. Those apps have proven to be invaluable assets to passengers across various forms of public transportation. Berry believes his app has the same potential; however, there is one roadblock that stands in the way.

“Drivers still have an option to decide whether or not they want to participate in the programme, and right now only a handful have signed up,” said Berry. “This means that there are a lot more buses that are on the streets that passengers will not be able to see.”

Earlier this month, the government announced that more than $30 million will be spent to build, widen and expand a network of roads across Grand Cayman over the next three years. The project includes the construction of a six-lane highway, as part of the jurisdiction’s answer to the ever-increasing volume of traffic. The failures of the current public transportation system have long been blamed as a contributing factor to the mounting bumper-to-bumper traffic that commuters in the eastern districts must face.

The app’s ‘ping’ feature allows passengers to send out a message to all nearby buses, without sending personal details. While it does track your location, via your phone’s GPS, there is an option to turn off the tracking while the app is not in use. The app also protects the personal details of the passengers and drivers.

“We deliberately chose not to include the personal details of the drivers for their own safety,” said Berry. “What passengers need to know is: Where is the bus and what direction is it travelling in?”

After using the app for a couple of days, I found there is some room for growth. I was unable to pay for my bus fare via the app, and it did not give me an approximation of when a bus might be coming to a specific location. The app also did not show any nearby bus stops, nor did it show the closest main road where I could catch a bus. Nonetheless, it represents a step forward for Cayman’s public transportation.

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