Passenger Information Displays – good for every stage of the journey

Published July 31, 2023 in Blog

You are running late.  At the Al Ghubaiba metro station, you get off the train and walk to the bus station. There you see a passenger information sign telling you that the bus is on time. You run to the platform as you hear the bus pull in.  Short of breath, you stand in line and then you realise you are on the wrong platform. It is too late to get across to the right platform, and you miss the bus. The information at the station entrance might have been correct, but it did not meet your needs.

This is a case of poor information. You may think that poor information may be better than no information. But in some instances, it is worse than no information, as it results in bad customer decisions, bad outcomes, and a poor passenger experience.

Fortunately, public transport passenger information technology is trying to address this issue.

What do you need to know?

Passenger information devices show different information based on what you need to know at each point in the journey. When approaching a stop, you need to know which platform or bay to go to, based on that route. You don’t need information on every service at every stop. At the stop, you need to know the services that use that stop, their stopping pattern/destination, and when they are arriving. On board, you need to know when you will arrive at the stops along the route, and what connecting services or other transport options are available at those stops.

Information needs also change based on the mode of transport, with multimodal information being particularly valuable between trips e.g., when getting off the bus and seeking the tram service information. Even better, is showing this multimodal information onboard, so passengers can potentially decide to stay on the bus rather than waiting for the tram.

Furthermore, even at the same point in the journey, passengers’ needs are not all the same. Blind people require audio messages, and if they are not provided automatically, then they require a way to activate them. If you are in a wheelchair, you need to be able to see the information clearly, so viewing angles are important. You may also require reassurance that the vehicle has been requested to stop and that the driver is aware there is a wheelchair passenger wanting to alight.

Passenger Information Displays (PIDs) Technology

So far, we have discussed the need for information. Just as important as the message, is the way that this message, is delivered.

This is highly dependent on the technology selected. At Trapeze, we recognise there is no one right solution, and that an effective passenger information system will consist of different technologies selected for their particular function, as well as a range of physical, financial, and political considerations.

The four main PIDs technologies are:

    • LED. A stalwart of earlier RTPI systems, LED displays provide a row-by-row display of information. The information was typically in a single colour (amber, red, green, and more recently, white). Each character was made up of a fixed pattern of LEDs, and lines potentially limited to 24 characters. Although quite limited in their capability, these signs were great at the time, and still occupy a valuable niche, and with increased resolution they continue to be used outdoors where other technologies are unsuitable
    • TFTs provide a colour, graphical representation of information. These displays need to be large (over 40 inches) and historically, this made them expensive. Another drawback was that unless they were of high brightness, they could not be seen in full sunlight. However, this is no longer the case, and large, high brightness displays are available at reasonable prices. TFT displays are particularly well suited to indoor locations, providing platform signs as well as general interchange information
    • E-ink is a relatively new technology that provides a graphical image in 16 shades of grey. These displays have extremely wide viewing angles, can be clearly seen in direct sunlight, and have a very low power consumption – making them ideal for solar power. Check out more details on more of these display
    • Mobile channels.  Every city has one or many public transport apps to plan and receive updates on your services on the go. In some apps, you can even buy a ticket and book for other modes (e.g., bike share service). However, they do not strictly fall under the banner of a passenger information display device, and so will not be further discussed here

Factors that should be considered when selecting passenger information technology include:

    • Viewing angles. Normally, the wider the better, as this allows more people to see the information from multiple positions
    • Sunlight visibility. For signs in an underground station, this may not be an issue, but at a bus or tram stop in the open, it is important that passengers can read the sign in all lighting conditions, from fully dark to bright sunlight. If you are using LED or LCD technologies, then this requires bright displays. If e-ink, then you may need a secondary light source at
    • Character resolution. On a platform, the text on a display should be sufficiently large that the majority of passengers on the platform can comfortably read the display
    • Colour selection. As 4.5% of all passengers are colour blind, careful selection of display colours on an LCD is needed. This choice is not as critical on LED or e-ink technologies, as these are typically a single colour
    • Power supply. Securing power to some displays is a challenge and can cost more than the sign. Normally, this is not a problem in new constructions such as a bus station or when a tram stop is upgraded. But for some locations, the power supply is nowhere near the stop, and solar power may be the best option. It is always important to consider both the cost of connection and the ongoing power consumption in your technology decision
    • Housing design. This is needed for:
        • Environmental protection. Waterproofing (IP rating), vibration and shock (IK rating) are important to prevent failures. Stop signs are subject to harsh weather, rain, and vandalism. On board displays are subject to ongoing shock and vibration, as well as electromagnetic interference from overhead traction supply systems
        • Temperature protection. The system needs to operate during the summer when it can be up to 70 degrees Celsius inside the cabinet, through to sub-zero temperatures in winter
    • Disability legislation compliance is now widely accepted. The height of the sign and the audio push button are both very important for people in wheelchairs, while the force needed to activate the button is important for the elderly. The use of high contrast text, text to speech audio, tactile text, and braille are essential for the sight impaired
      A bus stop and PID
    • Upgradability. There is an ongoing push for faster wireless communications, which have evolved from 2G to 3G to 4G and now to 5G. Future PIDs will leverage these increased bandwidth capabilities, with Trapeze currently considering camera-fitted displays for counting passengers at stops and providing an interactive stop experience. Future innovations may include facial recognition with personalised information

Providing an Independent System for Signs at Stops and Stations

Having an independent system for the signs at stops and stations, while considering the customer’s existing ITCS system is important as it protects existing investments and provides a path forward.

At Trapeze, we propose a comprehensive solution that offers seamless integration, control, and flexibility, ensuring a reliable passenger information system. Here’s how we address the requirements:

1. Passenger Management Software in the Cloud

To serve as the central hub for managing and delivering passenger information, we recommend installing our advanced passenger management software in the cloud, specifically in the UAE. This cloud-based solution ensures efficient data processing, accessibility, and scalability.

2a. GTFS as a Primary Data Source

Our system leverages the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) as the primary data source. GTFS provides standardized data formats for public transportation schedules and routes, ensuring accurate and reliable information for the signs.

2b. Optional Integration with ITCS using SIRI-SX

For organizations with an existing ITCS system, we offer the option to integrate our system with the ITCS using the Service Interface for Real-time Information (SIRI-SX). This integration facilitates the exchange of real-time information from the ITCS system to our passenger management software, enabling the synchronized delivery of messages to the signs.

3. Support for Various Sign Types

To cater to different signage requirements, our system supports a variety of sign types, including Flexpaper, LED, and TFT displays. By utilizing our passenger management software, the relevant content can be accurately and dynamically delivered to each specific sign type.

4. Web-Based Client Interface (WebCli) for Management and Control

Efficient and user-friendly management and control are crucial for maintaining accurate and up-to-date information on the signs. Our system provides a powerful web-based client interface, allowing authorized personnel to remotely monitor, manage, and update the content displayed on the signs. This ensures flexibility and responsiveness in delivering the right messages to passengers.

Conclusion

Having the right information in the right place can really help passengers make use of the public transport network. This information will differ as the passenger moves through their journey. Whilst there are a range of technologies to help deliver general service and disruption information to passengers, the selection of these technologies requires the consideration of many factors.

Good passenger information comes from good quality vehicle tracking, advanced prediction algorithms and a powerful sign management system that can tie these information sources together – delivering the right message to all passengers. When you run for the train, you get to the right platform on time, and when you’re onboard knowing that your stop is 10 minutes away and your connecting service will be waiting, you are relaxed and in control and your overall public transport travel experience is enhanced.

For you, the passenger information system’s job is done. For others, the journey is only just beginning.

To find out how Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) technology can help you deliver your customers the service they want, contact us today.

Mode of Transport

Bus, Rail, Trams/Light Rail

Solutions

Intelligent Transport Systems

Meet the author

David Panter

Industry Solutions Manager, ITS

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