BLOG: How well does real-time Dublin Bus info work?

Dublin City Council have been installing Luas-like electronic, real-time timetables at bus stops since last last year. It should mean an end to waiting for a bus that for some reason is never going to come, but how well does it work?

We watched one of the units today for a short time outside Xtra-vision in Fairview and the system worked. It worked reasonably well. Most of the buses came when the on-street screen said they would.

Although it is a testing phase, one notable problem seemed to be that buses stopped at traffic lights 100m down the road were sometimes wiped from the screen as if they had already come and gone.

Other buses went from being ‘due’ back up to an estimated arivial time of 1min. This is a feature of the system, not a flaw. When buses are delayed for whatever reason –traffic, traffic lights, etc — the GPS tracker on the bus tells the system the bus has stopped or slowed. The system reacts and the estimated arrival time at the stop is then updated accordingly.

An old lady at the stop in Fairview seemed to be ignoring the bright new stand and instead struggled with the printed timetables. Unlike the new signs which estimate when a bus is due to arrive, the current printed timetables only tell users when a bus is due to leave its starting point, it’s up to users to guess how long the bus will take.

The old woman told us her bus — the 130 — was cut in frequency and complained about the timetables. When we pointed at the shiny new display unit she was sceptical. Minutes later when she was boarding the 130 she said “That was more than five minutes.” It was the bus was at least a minute late, but minutes feel a lot longer waiting for a Dublin Bus on a sunny day and it was raining at the time.

There’s likely to be many sceptical users to convince, and real-time information can’t solve all of Dublin Bus’ problems. Although it is hoped the GPS tracking systems on buses will also be used to give buses priority at junctions.

The National Transport Authority said last week that the live testing phase is designed to check accuracy of the information. It invited bus users to give their feedback at transportforireland.ie.

The signs were switched on for the first time last November. Since the PR launch on Friday at least 10 of the units are up and running. Work is continuing on installing 450 screens at bus stops in the Greater Dublin Area. The screen units will be mounted to stainless-steel polls at stops — many of these polls are already visible at bus stops.

All Dublin bus stops have been mapped out and numbered. At stops where these will be no screens, passengers will be able to use the bus stop number to get the live data using text messaging and a website.

The new system follows from a failed trial in the 1990s using what was basically an older version of the new system  — the remainders of which were only removed from bus stops in recent years shortly before bus shelters were modernised. That trial was abandoned and never expanded beyond a number of routes. It’s not clear if there was a technical problem or if buses getting stuck in congestion on fractured Quality Bus Corridors was the real issue.

Dublin Bus is also trialling on-bus displays which tell passengers inside buses where the next stop is.

MORE: Transportforireland.ie
MORE: Transport authority hopes for open access to real-time bus data
MORE: Boards.ie thread on real time information

Short URL: http://dublinobserver.com/?p=2895

1 Comment for “BLOG: How well does real-time Dublin Bus info work?”

  1. Hi,
    Bus Eireann has a multi-million euro system on its fleet. However, when buses do not run it reverts to the timetable; thereby, leaving one standing like and idiot for a bus that turns into a ghost. Other buses turn up at times bearing no relation to the live info, Indeed, to check this simply login to whensmybus.ie. Check for buses going to ashbourne about 7:00a.m and you will see buses due at route stops at specified times. The run takes about 35 minutes. However, the system will show buses due at stops out to about 9:30a.m. These buses have not left the garage. So if a driver does not turn in the system will still shows the bus as due at (for example Kilshane) in xxMinutes.

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