An Oak Bay resident is helping British Columbians more easily navigate BC Ferries sailing schedules and capacity with a rebranded mobile app that continues the legacy of its predecessor.
“I find the BC Ferries website a bit confusing,” said Samuel Pratt, 22, who works for Victoria’s Kano games studio and wanted to provide a more convenient and intuitive way to view crossings.
He released BC Ferry Times in April for iPhone after revitalizing the interface of the old BC Ferry Rush app that ran from August 2013 until late 2021. Pratt reached out to the app’s developer, Salmon Runner, who ” scraped the data” from BC Ferries to show its crossings, and received the code to maintain the project under a new name.
“It’s a nice convenience that we should continue to have.”
Ferry Rush BC has closed due to increasing workload related to BC Ferries website updates and data access from several different pages. Pratt got around this problem by using information from a 24/7 open-source server, instead of having the app fetch the data directly from the website.
In an “easy to use” format, its app displays up-to-date timetables and sailing capacity details for all major BC Ferries terminals. Enabling location services allows the app to show the nearest device when users open it.
“People have reacted very positively,” Pratt said, adding that users have given lots of helpful feedback so far.
He studied computer science for two years at the University of Victoria and often uses BC Ferries to visit family and access destinations like Salt Spring Island and the Sunshine Coast. Although he does not collect ferry usage data for the app himself, Pratt observes that the Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay terminals receive some of the heaviest traffic.
“The other routes, it’s more of a static schedule,” he said of crossings without capacity.
People can browse the majority of its app for free, but can access non-essential benefits for $4 if they are frequent users or want to support other enhancements and add-ons.
“The idea is that I don’t want to put anything essential behind a paywall.”
As well as adding routes without capacity, Pratt’s future plans for the app include linking to BC Ferries’ location-tracking website and making it available on Android, which he says presents an entirely different project. .
“You basically have to build it from scratch a second time.”
He also hopes to create a similar version of BC Ferry Times for Washington State Ferries with the same user interface.
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