There was a time when to plan a trip on public transport, you either had a paper copy of the relevant timetable(s), or you had to ring the information line 131-MET.
A generation before that, you’d have been able to ask your local station staff or tram or bus conductor, but they may have only known about their route.
These days the information is almost all electronic: on the web, on a mobile app, or on a screen or automated display (if there is one) at the station or stop. For most people this is preferred to any paper timetables that might be on display.
Ideally all this information is correct, and aligns. Each sign or screen should confirm what you knew before, and help lead you to where you’re going as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, often the information isn’t accurate, complete or relevant, and I’ve noticed a few instances of this recently.
The new trains aren’t on the apps
But they’re not appearing on the PTV app. Their services simply aren’t listed, leaving big gaping holes in the real-time list of departures.
These departures are also not showing in the handy Ridespace web site, which is designed to show how the level of crowding on each service.
Google Maps can also show live train data. But they are sensible enough to supplement the real-time data with static timetable information, so they show all services, just with some missing the live departure time.
Evolution HCMTs missing from the PTV app is not a new problem – it’s been the case since the first of the new trains went into service about a year ago. But it’s got a lot worse since more of the trains have started running.
Similar problems are creeping in elsewhere. I noticed yesterday that the Smartbus sign at Bentleigh station is only showing some train departures, but not all.
Disruption! Go catch a bus!
Noticed on Sunday evening: the screens and automated announcements at Caulfield platform 1 suddenly started to claim that there was a disruption to trains to the City… and kept claiming it even as a citybound train arrived… and departed.
This led to considerable confusion for people waiting on the platform. The PSOs said that they hadn’t heard anything from Metro about it, and suggested that if in doubt, get on the train. This turned out to be wise advice.
Metro later said the error had been corrected.
I suspect the intention was to flag that some citybound trains (arriving from Dandenong on platform 3) were disrupted due to planned works. But the message went to all platforms, including where trains were not affected.
Worse, the message was very specific, advising passengers to go to the replacement bus stop. This was not correct for anybody on any platform at Caulfield.
For the people on platform 1, rather than the irrelevant and misleading information they were given, they could have been told that crosstown services were terminating at Flinders Street, not continuing to Werribee and Williamstown – due to a different set of planned works.
Buying a Myki
One normally tech-savvy and intelligent correspondent noted recently she had been defeated during the supposedly simple task of buying a Myki card at a station vending machine.
Why? Because after choosing to Buy a card (rather than Top-up a card), it displays Top-up options.
Huh? But I want to buy a card.
Despite there being plenty of space on the screen at this point, it doesn’t give you the vital information: that you need to load some Money or a Pass onto the card when you buy it.
Even pressing the information link on the screen doesn’t adequately explain it. Unless you already know the answer, it just leaves some people thinking they’re on the wrong screen, so they’ll navigate back, and try again, until they give up.
Myki is more than 12 years old. Do they not do any usability testing on this stuff? (The web site is still glitchy too.)
The importance of clear, accurate information
Despite these problems I do think public transport information in Victoria has improved over the years.
There was a time when most bus stops didn’t have timetables – this was resolved some years ago. And there’s more real-time information available than ever before. Mostly, it’s accurate.
But it needs to be better. Even regular users making their regular trip need help sometimes, and for everybody else, it’s essential. If not done well, it becomes a barrier to people using the system.
So let’s hope it continues to improve.
Meanwhile, here’s a tiny sign outside my local station pointing to the Rail Replacement Bus Stop. It’s got incomplete information, and it contradicts another nearby sign that points in a different direction.
But that’s okay, because both are so small, and mounted so high that nobody’s likely to spot them.
- Good discussion in the replies on Twitter