Friday, March 24, 2006

Some transport gizmos

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Melbourne public transport has enough trouble keeping current electronic gizmos working money spent on them is less effective than on basics like adequate infrastructure, signalling, reliable services, co-ordination, service frequency etc.

So in a spirit of knowing that none of these will (or possibly should) be implemented, here are a few 'technical fixes' that might appeal to the passenger.

1. Walk Key: Our road system is designed more for maximum traffic throughput than pedestrian access or passengers transferring between public transport services. Hence even where pedestrian crossings are provided, traffic light cycles can be long, leading to extended waiting times and missed connections.

Walk Key fixes this. The same size and shape as an electronic car alarm key, this small transmitter sends a signal to the nearest pedestrian crossing. Press the button as you approach the crossing (50 or 100m is enough) and you'll get a walk phase by the time you've arrived at the crossing (or near enough). Thus you get a head start compared to where you must walk right up to the crossing and press the button.

2. Stop clicker: When you're waiting for a train, you at least get an announcement just before it arrives. And even if the equipment is playing up and you don't, the train will at least stop.

But if you're waiting for a bus, you must keep half an eye on the road so you can see the bus in order to hail it. But having to maintain vigilance spoils the read of a good book (as should be carried by all passengers).

The Stop Clicker keeps the read fun. Using RFID-like technology, a buzzer or sounder receiver is mounted on the bus shelter or timetable pole. The bus contains a transmitter. As soon as the bus nears the shelter (but allowing time for passengers to hail) the bus stop receiver clicks. The passenger can read contendedly, knowing that there will be a alterted that there is a bus. All they need do is check the route number, and if it is correct, they can hail it.

Of course if the driver fails to switch on the bus transmitter, it could be just as useful as the SmartBus PIDs, not to mention the installation/maintenance bill.

3. SMS timetables: We do it for trains, so why not buses and trams as well? Each stop has a stop number. SMS this to a special number and you receieve a message describing the next five services. More realistic than the first two 'gimmicks', as it's done overseas, but not here yet. The more advanced version has real-time running information and advice of delays as well.

Any more?

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