An Oak Bay resident is helping British Columbians navigate BC Ferries sailing times and capacities more easily with a rebranded mobile app that carries on the legacy of its predecessor.
“I find the BC Ferries website a bit confusing,” said 22-year-old Samuel Pratt, who works for Victoria’s Kano gaming studio and wanted to offer a more convenient and intuitive way to view sailings.
He released BC Ferry Times in April for iPhone after revitalizing the interface of the former Ferry Rush BC app that ran from August 2013 to late 2021. Pratt reached out to the app’s developer, Salmon Runner, which “scraped data” from BC Ferries to show its sailings, and received the code to keep the project going under a new name.
“It’s a nice convenience we should continue to have.”
Ferry Rush BC shut down due to the increasing workload of following BC Ferries website updates and accessing data from several different pages. Pratt worked around this issue by using information from a 24-7 open-source server, instead of having the app retrieve the data directly from the website.
In an “easy-to-use” format, his app displays up-to-date schedule and sailing capacity details for all major BC Ferries terminals. Enabling location services allows the app to show the nearest terminal when users open it.
“People have been reacting super positively,” Pratt said, adding that users have given lots of useful 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. Though he doesn’t collect ferry usage data himself for the app, Pratt observes that the Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay terminals receive some of the most traffic.
“The other routes, it’s more a static schedule,” he said of the non-capacity sailings.
People can navigate the majority of his app for free but may access nonessential perks for $4 if they’re frequent users or want to support further improvements and add-ons.
“The idea is I don’t want to put anything essential behind a paywall.”
Along with adding non-capacity routes, future plans for Pratt’s app include linking it to the BC Ferries location-tracking website and making it available on Android, which he said presents a whole other project.
“You basically need to build it up from scratch a second time.”
He also hopes to make a similar version of BC Ferry Times for Washington State Ferries with the same user interface.
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