Published April 30, 2021 in Blog
You are running late. As you run to the station entrance, you see a passenger information sign that tells you the train is on time. You race down the stairs, cross under the line, and back up the stairs as you hear the train pulling in. Short of breath, you look for the nearest carriage door, and suddenly realise you are on the wrong platform. It is too late to get across to the right platform, and you miss the train. 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.
In its early years, simple timetables were printed and posted on the wall. This approach was improved upon with standalone systems that provided basic audio and visual messages about services. But these messages were not integrated at the stop or on-board systems. Call centres provided relevant timetable information, and disruption notifications and real-time information was first seen on phones in the 1990s via SMS. By 2000, technology had evolved into early real-time passenger information (RTPI) displays that showed arrival times and gave some planned service information.
Printed information matured further to incorporate QR codes and Near Field Communication (NFC), and Wi-Fi and next stop announcements all became common on buses, trams, trains, and ferries. In the 2010’s, smartphones delivered real-time information together with trip planning to people on the move. RTPI signs came of age with advanced prediction algorithms, graphical route maps, and other visual formats. You can see this full history in an easy to view graphic here.
This brings us to today. ‘What journey should I take to get there quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively?’ This question occurs many times across the city, and in today’s connected world, there is an expectation that this information is available instantaneously and is accurate.
Passenger Information Types
The passenger information journey has been described by Transport for NSW as per Figure 1:
This graphic identifies passenger information needs at every stage of the journey. For instance, our passenger arriving at the train station needs to know the train departure time and platform. It may also be necessary to verify that the service stops at the destination station, particularly if it is not a mainstream station.
Passengers at the concourse/boarding stage want confirmation that their service is arriving, with accessibility details, load factors and route details. Once onboard, they seek information on journey progress and when to get off, as well as the status of connecting services at their stop – so that they can continue their journey stress-free.
Passenger information devices show different information based on what you need to know at that 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.
So far, we have discussed the need for information.
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:
Factors that should be considered when selecting passenger information technology include:
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.
This blog is Part 2 of a series on passenger information. See also:
Bus, Rail, Trams/Light Rail
Intelligent Transport Systems
Industry Solutions Manager, ITS