The Talking Bus: A Year Later

Just over a year ago I released the Charlottetown Bus Schedule by Telephone service, a hack that combined the data from the Charlottetown Bus Schedule with some Asterisk magic and a spare voice-over-IP telephone number to make schedule information for the main University Avenue bus line in Charlottetown available over the telephone at (902) 367-3694.

The Talking BusLike the work I’d done earlier with wrapping maps and mobile apps around bus schedule information, I did this as a free public-service project: I want more people to use the bus, and if it’s in my power to give them information to help them do this, I have an obligation to do so, I reasoned.

Five months later I received the delightful surprise of seeing one of the buses that serves the route re-branded as The Talking Bus, making about as obvious and powerful an advertisement for the telephone service as I could imagine.

The telephone information service has been running for a year now. Here’s a summary of the results so far (information that’s always been available, day by day, over here):

  • 2,278 calls have been received in total, or 6 a day on average.
  • On the busiest days, October 27, 2009 and September 14, 2009, 26 calls were received.
  • There was at least one call received on 334 of 371 days the service has been operating.
  • Calls have been received from 651 distinct telephone numbers.
  • Almost all of the calls were from area code 902 (Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island), with a smattering from Alberta, Ontario and other places.
  • Almost 75% of calls came from mobile phones (exchanges 314, 940, 218, 626, and 393).
  • The popularity of the stops for which specific schedule information was requested:
    1. UPEI Student Centre
    2. Confederation Centre
    3. Charlottetown Mall
    4. Atlantic Superstore
    5. Sea Treat Restaurant
    6. Wal-Mart/Old Navy
    7. Royal Bank/Coop
    8. Atlantic Technology Centre
    9. Sobeys/Farm Centre
  • The most popular time to call was between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. 10% of calls were received during that hour.

The operating cost for the service, which I pay from Reinvented’s pocket, is $3.00/month for the 367-3694 telephone line and $20/month for a share of the digital phone line running into the server room here, for a total of $276/year.  Or about 12 cents per call processed.

By contrast to all of this, the telephone service’s older web-based cousin,, received 15,381 unique visitors during the same 12-month period.

All in all I think it’s been a successful project, and one that’s worth continuing.  As always, I welcome suggestions for improvements.


Susan's picture
Susan on November 26, 2009 - 15:40

Do you know of any apps for blackberry curve for the charlottetown bus? i have one for my ipod touch but i am more likely to have my phone on hand than my ipod.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on November 26, 2009 - 16:05

Susan, if you have data access for your Blackberry, just use its browser to visit for a phone-friendly schedule.

Josh Biggley's picture
Josh Biggley on November 26, 2009 - 17:16

There must have been some sort of Talking Bus aura floating over the city last night as I was just telling my wife about the Talking Bus service that you had done. An excellent service for a corporation, and outstanding public service by Reinvented. Kudos Peter!

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