A YORK bus company is launching a mobile app update to allow passengers to track buses and see their available capacity during the pandemic.

Going live this week, the First York app update will show customers a bus icon on a map depicting the live location and available capacity of each vehicle in the vicinity. This new functionality, the first to be introduced by a major bus operator, will allow customers to make informed decisions about their essential journeys.

Martin Hirst, Commercial Director of First West Yorkshire and York, said: “This is another way we’re using technology to ensure safe, informed travel during these difficult times. Our buses provide an essential service for our customers and we are doing all we can to support them.”

First York typically recorded over 14,000 customers a month on its mobile app prior to lockdown and in May this was some 850 transactions, which illustrates how far fewer people are currently using buses and heeding the guidance to avoid public transport.

Currently, under social distancing measures on First York buses far fewer seats are available; ten or 12 on a single decker that normally can carry between 50and 60 people and on a double decker about 20 instead of a capacity of between 80 and 90.

The innovation has been made possible by First Bus’s new passenger counting functionality, announced at the end of May. Data from this system feeds directly to the First Bus app in real time. This app update coincides with First York increasing services, following confirmation last week of further support from the Government to bus operators.

With social distancing guidance being observed at the same time as lockdown restrictions are being relaxed, this additional capacity will allow customers to travel in comfort and safety.

Martin Hirst added: “To further support social distancing, and in addition to passenger counting, seats on each bus are now clearly marked indicating where customers should sit.”

First continues to encourage cashless payments, and use of the App to purchase mTickets, to reduce the need for contact between customers and drivers.

The app update will be available from Apple and Android app stores during this week.