It only took eight years

It’s a miracle!

Back in 2011, the train information on this Smartbus sign at Bentleigh station was switched off.

In 2016 during the level crossing removal project, the bus stop and sign were removed, then put back.

For a while the sign wasn’t working, but then the bus times were switched on. But not the train times.

On Monday, for the first time in over 8 years, the train times re-appeared. Eureka!

Bentleigh station Smartbus PID working again

Thinking ahead, and more broadly: the real-time bus information that was once unique to Smartbus is now more widespread. It’s made its way onto smartphone apps.

The opportunity here is for authorities to get some solid passenger wins for relatively little investment.

  • Roll-out street displays to more stops, showing departure countdowns for all routes. Sure, most people have a smart phone that can access this information, but it’s still better to “push” it to people.
  • Put Smartbus-style Passenger Information Displays (PIDs) announcing the next stop into all new buses – London, a place that is serious about their buses, has done this. For that matter, all of Melbourne’s trams are getting it.
  • Enhance them to be able to show other messages such as the current route, and disruption information (see London example below)

Displays inside new buses should be a no-brainer, given the other required infrastructure is already in place – when a Smartbus ends up on a “normal” route, it appears the displays work correctly.

Unfortunately the current program of 100 new buses for Transdev has missed this. They are adding new generation Myki readers, USB ports for charging, and better external destination displays, which is good. But no internal displays.

(Marcus Wong points out in his blog today that they’ve also missed an opportunity to shift to more hybrid or electric buses.)

Displays at stations are also handy, as bus drivers can see imminent train arrivals, and may be able to wait for connecting passengers.

London bus alert for Underground

Of course, more direct routes and better bus frequency and operating hours are the best thing to get more people using buses.

But making them user-friendly for new and regular users is also important, and should be an easy win.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “It only took eight years”

@Andrew, I can understand the view that the Zs wouldn’t get them, given they are all likely to be scrapped in the next few years – hopefully!

What’s left now – 100 or so Z3s? The sooner they go, the better.

Related: a lot of stations are getting new platform displays – screens rather than the old two-line LEDs. It appears stations on the list for demolition under the Level Crossing Removal Program are not getting them. Makes sense.

Real-time internal displays and announcements on buses are especially useful for riders to know when they are approaching their stop. Unlike train stations and tram stops, Melbourne bus stops are hard to identify from within the bus.

>Melbourne bus stops are hard to identify from within the bus.

Especially when the windows are covered in advertising. And virtually impossible to see out at night when raining.

> But no internal displays.

But on the positive side, no radios. No more having to listen to inane breakfast radio on the way to work.

I’m still annoyed at the removal of the multi-line LED displays on the bridge at Ringwood. Now we have to exit the station to see what trains are coming on the other platforms.

Will the 100 new buses have their exaust pipes on the right and up high, or will they be like most of the existing buses and have it low and on the left, so anyone in a bus stop or footpath nearby is covered in a belch of diesel every time they leave the bus stops?

We are doing a trial of similar technology with Auckland Transport showing route, stops, time till destination, current location and disruption details. Formally known as infotainment. It had visual and audio announcements.

Service also has passenger wifi.

How smart are the smart bus signs? I had occasion recently to take the 903 along Warrigal rd northward. As I walked through the Bowens carpark I saw a bus arriving but was unable to run to catch it. It left and I pressed the button to find out when the next one was due (I thought they were supposed to have 10 min frequency). Apparently the bus I saw departing was due in one minute and the next one 13 minutes later. Does the sign not update in real time? If not, then what is the point of having it?

I wish the real-time bus information actually was more widespread, meaning PIDs for other routes and not just the very few SmartBus ones. Case in point, there is a large electronic SmartBus sign in the quiet suburb of Wattle Park opposite the tram terminus (speaking of which, there is no provision for tram routes in the SmartBus displays, unlike the next train times), yet Croydon station has nothing (not counting regular old paper timetables) simply because no SmartBuses exist in the area, despite having over a dozen buses that serve the station*.

* Croydon station bus routes, all 13 of them:
380 Ringwood, anti-clockwise (via Croydon Hills, ex-366)
380 Ringwood, clockwise (via Ringwood East, ex-367)
664 Chirnside Park
664 Westfield Knox
670 Lilydale
670 Ringwood
671 Chirnside Park (TeleBus)
672 Chirnside Park via Wonga Park (TeleBus)
688 Upper Ferntree Gully
689 Montrose
690 Boronia
737 Monash
Area 4 TeleBus

I expect you are right about the number of Z trams still in use. Vicsig can be a bit slow to update at times. Assuming there will be an F class, smaller than an E class, it seems to have taken many years for less than 100 E class trams to appear on the tracks. I think the Z trams will be with us for a decade yet. While they don’t have air con and aren’t disabled friendly, otherwise they are a very comfortable tram.

Comments are closed.