Today, TTC Chair Adam Giambrone gave a press conference at noon at 1900 Yonge Street about the Transit City Electronic Customer Communications Plan and the Next Bus Arrival Project.
A report on this subject will be discussed at tomorrow’s Commission meeting, and it went online this morning after the original version of this item was posted.
At the risk of prejudging the announcement, I can’t help thinking this is another wonderful example of millions of dollars worth of technology being used in place of the basics: running frequent, well-managed transit service.
The report addresses several related projects:
Next Bus Arrival
This system, to be integrated with both the City’s new standard street furniture program and with the TTC website, will provide estimated arrival times of approaching vehicles. A critical part of such an undertaking will be accurate knowledge of a vehicle’s position and movement along a route, and in turn this depends on converting the antiquated vehicle monitoring system now in use (CIS) to use GPS data rather than “signposts”. (For more information about how CIS works, please refer to this article.)
Also needed will be information about the alleged destination of the vehicle. In the case of buses, this could be obtained if the code for the current route sign display were available to the monitoring system, although keeping CIS in sync with the frequent updates to the database in bus signs would be a challenge. For streetcars, there is no way to know what sign is set by the operator, and drivers would have to key in a destination code to the CIS unit for each trip (and every time they are short turned). I doubt that this information would be reliable and a next car display would proudly announce a car to Long Branch that was in fact turning at Shaw Street.
My real concern about this system, aside from the dubious value of building it at all when there are far worse problems with service quality and management, is that the TTC will undertake a typical design that works only when everything runs as it should.
The pilot will involve 12 bus stops, and I will bet that they will be on a sleepy route such as Bayview that was the testbed for the on board stop announcement system. Figuring out when the next Queen car will show up and where it is going is a much bigger challenge.
The total project cost is $5.2-million, but it is not clear whether this is just for the central system and additional costs both for shelter-based equipment and on-vehicle system changes will be add-ons to the project.
The TTC is planning to contract with an external agency for online sale of passes. This project has a budget of $1.2-million, but there is no detail about what this covers.
Evaluation of responses to the Request for Proposals is now underway and approval of a vendor is expected in January 2008. The new site should be rolled out in “late spring 2008”.
Wheel-Trans Remote Trip Booking
The ability to make, inquire about and cancel bookings via the Internet should be available in February 2008. It is unclear whether this is a real-time booking system, or simply a portal allowing users to queue up emails to Wheel Trans staff. Further clarification is needed.
I will update this page based on whatever presentations or discussions occur at Wednesday’s TTC meeting.