Xinyi Zhuang grew up in subtropical Quanzhou in southern China, where grapefruits and bananas grow on trees.
So waiting an hour for a city transit bus in the middle of a Prince George winter to take him to UNBC is not his idea of a good time.
The 23-year-old computer science masters student found it confusing to use the printed rider's guide to figure out when to go out and wait at a bus stop and and it got even more complicated trying to time transfers between buses to get where he wanted to be.
That got him thinking there had to be a better way. So he developed a Prince George Transit app, a free download he hopes will simplify daily life for the city's transit users.
As soon as he started using his app, he found a way to save time when travelling from UNBC to Prince Centre. He took the No. 15 bus to Nicholson Street, then transferred to the No. 88 bus, rather than trying to connect to the No. 55 route.
"Sometimes the 55 bus is not on time and I missed it quite a few times in winter, when it was minus-20 C," said Zhuang, 23, who began his masters computer science studies at UNBC in January.
"It makes me happy just to see my fellow students and transit riders using the app and it’s also good for my resume. It’s my career ambition to work at Google someday, so I hope this can be a step in that direction.”
The app produces a digital copy of the rider's guide. Now, at the touch of a cell phone, users have a map of the bus routes and updated schedule. The app is only available to users of iOS devices like iPhones and iPads but Zhuang plans to adapt it for Android operating systems.
There are now about 100 users of his app and he wants to hear feedback from people to find ways to improve it. Prince George Transit is part of B.C. Transit and he could potentially expand the app to include other B.C. cities like Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna.
"I just made it simple so everybody can use it," said Zhuang, who will gain landed immigrant status with his family next year.
“I think this app has great potential to make a better public transit system if there is a way to directly communicate with the digital database of BC Transit. It will be easier to notice schedule changes and notifications.”
The app is available through the App Store by typing in PG Transit.