New app gives instant updates on ferry delays and overloads

Thanks to Chris Wilson, you can also find out where the express bus is and schedule your water taxi ride

While many Boweners grumble about ferry issues, islander Chris Wilson decided to put that frustration to action and do something about overload roulette.

The once-computer programmer-turned-lawyer built an app to monitor ferry and bus status. He’ll never be surprised by another Horseshoe Bay overload again.

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The Bowen Commuter app takes BC Ferries’ Queen of Capilano information to let users know how full the next ferry is, when the last ferry left and links to the current location of the ferry. It does the same for Peter King’s Express Bus and has the schedule for the Cormorant Marine water taxi.

“I was constantly finding myself looking for this information and it's not available all in one place,” explains Wilson, a Bowen-to-Vancouver commuter for the past 17 years.

So he learned the Apple computer language Swift, paid $300 to become a developer and after some beta testing, launched the app in April. The app is only available for iOS (there’s no android version).

When the Undercurrent spoke with Wilson in early June, the app was just shy of 200 downloads.

“I use it every day” says Wilson. “It tells me how full the ferry is so if I’m driving, I know that I need to leave a little earlier.

“I'm hoping that it benefits other people on Bowen as well.”

He adds, “It was a lot fun to make. And it certainly took a few months, experimenting and learning and writing more and more code.”

While he’s had all sorts of suggestions for additions to the app — an alert function for overloads, a ride-sharing feature, showing the locations of Bowen’s on-island buses, and a messaging feature — Wilson says he’s taking a breather for now.

“It's up and running and working and so far, so good,” he chuckles.

“I managed to handle the schedule change automatically, so that was a big deal for me,” he says. “I'm an intellectual property lawyer, not a programmer anymore. But this was my little foray back into my youth.”

The app is $1.39 on the Apple store, but Wilson says that’s to recover the cost of registering as a developer.

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