Some Day My Train Will Come (Updated)

Over the past week, I have spent a lot of time in Dundas Station what with the AMC theatre being a major venue for the Film Festival and the location of the principal box office.

On opening night, September 4, the “Next Train” information was up and running on the One Stop video monitors.  Alas, by closing night, September 13, all we got was a black band with “No Information Available”.

As those who’ve been reading here for a while know, I am not impressed by technological tricks, especially when they are of dubious value and don’t work reliably.  There’s probably some very good reason for the system’s failure, and this is part of the 90-day pilot, but I can’t help wondering whether the TTC will be any better at keeping information systems running than escalators.

The full rollout of One Stop monitors is supposed to be completed, along with the in-station “Next Bus” info screens, by the end of 2009.  This brings me to one huge problem with One Stop:  It’s an advertising medium, and it is located to be seen by the most people, up to a point.  Many stations (including the one right under TTC head office) still have Metrons, some with working displays advertising for that same kennel near the Airport.  Donlands may even have a full set of working displays, and the ones at Museum were carefully preserved until days before the station redecorations were unveilled.

At Yonge Station, the monitors are far enough apart that the “Next Train” info, were it present, would be illegible to half the waiting passengers, and Yonge has more than one monitor per direction.  The problem, of course, is that if signs are intended to offer information, there have to be lots of them and this runs headlong into the design issue of overwhelming stations with video screens.

Speaking of Museum, the white columns are starting to look dirty, and there has been at least one naked lady (at least a classical reference) sketched on a column.  This sort of thing is endemic on the TTC.  Projects start but never finish.  Things are built but not maintained.

During the whole 9 days the displays at Dundas actually worked, I didn’t experience a delay to see whether they gave accurate info, or resolutely showed the same estimated time for 10 minutes running while the next train sat somewhere down the line.  I didn’t get to see a display with any value higher than 3 minutes, and have no idea of how reliably the system will deal with service holds and gaps.  We shall see, once they get it working again.  Any other observations of the displays’ behaviour would be appreciated.

Updated Sept 14:  I have been advised that different versions of the “next train” software will be tested and that the display will be out of service from time to time.  All the same, it bears watching to see how reliably available and accurate the information will be.