Fran Wilde: real time information “operates reliably… glitch resolved”

by Fran Wilde
I wish to refute a series of comments about Real Time Information made via Twitter by the editor of Wellington.scoop, over the last 24 hours.

Far from being a failure, Real Time Information (RTI) has been one of several major improvements to public transport in the Wellington region over the last few years. Instead of waiting and not knowing when their bus or train will turn up, people can check online before they leave home or the office and see when their bus or train will arrive. More than 250 display screens are also in place at the busiest stops and at most railway stations.

I acknowledge there was a significant glitch with the system earlier this year, due to unexpected failures of RTI equipment on buses. However, that was resolved by the system supplier at their cost as soon as the cause was identified. The system now operates reliably and to expected levels of performance.

Isolated issues do occur from time to time but we work closely with the service operators to ensure, for example, that services are operated as they should be and any changes are planned in advance so information is as accurate as it can be. We value anyone who experiences an issue with RTI giving us details of the service concerned and where and when they saw the information so we can look back, see what actually happened and work with operators to prevent this happening again.

The editor claims, wrongly, that Infratil could have supplied an RTI system for nothing through its operating companies (Go Wellington and Valley Flyer). Although many buses now have systems for ticketing or fleet management that could provide the geographical position of the bus, that is only one part of the information required to generate RTI, and is not available for all buses and trains that provide Metlink services. It also wasn’t widely available when we procured our RTI system in 2009.

An RTI system also requires specialist central applications, the installation and maintenance of display signs, and links to, for example, the Metlink website and databases which help us to manage the day-to-day operation of the network in its entirety, and to plan for its development. We also need to ensure that we can independently plan for upgrade and renewal of the system making best use of technology developments.

We are satisfied that the Metlink RTI system provides satisfactory service and represents good value for money, compared with alternatives that were available at the time it was procured.

If the editor takes his responsibility in the social media seriously and wants to make an informed contribution, we would be delighted to give him a full briefing.

Fran Wilde is chair of the Greater Wellington Regional Council

February: $9.7m system was 50% failure

 

17 comments:

  1. John Clarke, 6. August 2014, 17:22

    I agree with Fran Wilde that the real time information system makes excellent reading. On my train line it’s by far the best work of fiction on the platform!

     
  2. Mad Hatter, 6. August 2014, 20:05

    Why can’t the RTI boards for Go Wellington buses display the current time? The boards counts down the minutes, but also show scheduled services as e.g. 6.30pm. I just want to see a reference to the current time so I don’t have to wonder how long I have to wait for the bus for. The other option is to find my mobile phone to check the time there. But, surely it’s such a simple thing to put in place, just use the last row on the board.

     
  3. Tony Randle, 7. August 2014, 8:50

    7:50 when I arrived at the Johnsonville Hub, the RTI showed three buses were “SCHED” to arrive at 8:00 and it also showed three buses “DUE” in 13 minutes. Then TWO buses, a 53 & 54, arrived ! . . . We were on our way out of J’ville at 8:00 when the RTI said we should expect our buses to arrive at the Hub (I took pictures of this, having read the claim that RTI was fixed).

    Fran, the RTI system is not fixed. It is merely less broken. It is still too unreliable for commuters to base their journeys on, as most regular commuters will tell you.

     
  4. Ian Apperley, 7. August 2014, 8:52

    Oh for goodness sake, it’s a white elephant, and a gold plated one at that. Anyone who spends time standing at the signs can see it is inaccurate and trying to link the Metlink Website to its success, is silly. The two are completely separate.

    Internationally, as I have commented before, better service, with RTI, direct to smartphones, has been achieved for an absolute fraction of the cost.

    The GWRC has installed a system that would have been great in the 80s and 90s. In the 21st Century, it is expensive, not particularly accurate, and requires you to be next to a sign to see it.

    The Scoop Editor is correct in his sentiment and Fran Wilde would do better to work on the public transport issues the city has instead of doing the typical shoot the messenger.

     
  5. Neil, 7. August 2014, 8:59

    I’m not sure if Fran actually uses the RTI boards.
    Yes, sometimes they are useful. Sometimes they are better than nothing, but quite often they are wrong.
    Bus in 2 mins… maybe… maybe not
    Bus due? Sure is. But then the info disappears off the board. The bus may show up in the next 2-5 minutes, or not at all.

    RTI means Real Time Information. That’s what the boards should be, not what they are.

     
  6. Philippa, GWRC, 7. August 2014, 9:34

    As Fran said, we would really appreciate people letting us know if they have experienced an issue with RTI. You can either call Metlink 0800 801 700 or email info@metlink.org.nz telling us the route number, and where and when you saw the information so we can look back, see what actually happened and work with operators to prevent this happening again.
    @Ian Apperley, RTI does not require you to be next to a sign to see it – it’s available on the Metlink website and mobile site and you can call Metlink for RTI.

     
  7. Trish, 7. August 2014, 10:22

    Philippa, GWRC. That’s classic. What is your text address?

     
  8. Mike Mellor, 7. August 2014, 10:35

    RTI screens are a standard feature of all modern public transport systems worldwide – it is nonsense to suggest that Wellington’s is a white elephant, or that smartphones can be seen as an acceptable substitute.

    My experience of RTI is that overall it’s not bad, but “overall” is not good enough. There are too many SCHEDs, too many quirks like times with no buses or buses with no times, too many buses leaving before the indicated time (a practice that seems to be acceptable to those at high levels in both Greater Wellington and NZ Bus, I’m appalled to say), and the nonsense of onboard info being supplied to drivers (who never seem to use it) but none to passengers. (Train passengers are much better served in this respect – why?)

    GWRC needs to tell reveal what the measured level of RTI performance actually is, eg what % of trips operated are displayed accurately, with inaccuracies broken down by type of failure/operator/route/vehicle/location, with clear, public strategies to address each issue.

    In the meantime, every malfunction reported to Metlink is an indication to them of the size and extent of the problem.

     
  9. Ian Apperley, 7. August 2014, 12:09

    So, the comment was about the signs being a white elephant, and I stand by my view.

    The metlink.org.nz I presume uses the same data, which as you can see, the quality is at issue by perception.

    We don’t need to spend $20 million plus on signs. The Metlink page by itself, should suffice (if the data was ok).

    As to smartphones not being seen as an acceptable substitute… I don’t know how old the commentator is but, wow.

    BTW: I just sat at a bus stop on Lambton Quay and the data on the sign and the phone was not accurate.

     
  10. Mark W, 7. August 2014, 13:18

    Seriously what would Fran know about the RTI screens? They’re the biggest load of fiction since reading stuff.co.nz or looking at Fox News.

    Countless times i’ve been waiting at the bus stop outside Dick Smiths on Manners Street looking at the RTI for the 31 Miramar North Express, with the sign showing the bus was 2-3 mins away only for it to then vanish completely and the bus appear 10 mins later with another 31 Express close behind.

    I think it’s clear judging from the short sighted decision to get rid of the trolleybuses that GWRC have no clue what goes on and are instead milking us ratepayers to pay for something that definitely isn’t public transport.

     
  11. Mike Riversdale, 7. August 2014, 16:36

    What I want is a consistent Metlinkwgtn RTI. Working for the routes I use and the RTI I care about. That’s all. If that’s not possible, then all good and I’ll forget the RTI and use the schedule. [via Twitter]

     
  12. Michael Gibson, 7. August 2014, 17:44

    We should all be very grateful to the Greater Wellington Regional Council & its chairperson, Fran Wilde, for communicating in this way. She has explained her position & taken responsibility – what more could she do?

     
  13. Mike Mellor, 7. August 2014, 17:54

    Ian Apperley: “As to smartphones not being seen as an acceptable substitute… I don’t know how old the commentator is but, wow”. I can’t see the relevance of my (or anyone else’s) age – I thought we were discussing RTI, not particular individuals.

    Feel free to stand by your view (whatever your age!), but I was pointing out that your opinion is different from those of operators/funders of public transport systems around the world, where international best practice is to provide screens with a function similar to Wellington’s.

     
  14. Ian Apperley, 7. August 2014, 18:48

    Hi Mike, I just can’t agree with that. My area of expertise is ICT and I’ve been at it for 25 years. New technology absolutely has nothing to do with physical signs. I’d love to chat with you about it. I present to Local Government all over the country about this stuff, GWRC is never there, but I do know what I am saying.

    The new tech that is well embedded could make a massive difference to the city, but we need the Councils to take it, understand it, and make it happen.

    Here is an example. Snapper’s ICT costs are less than $100 USD per month. It is possible to make this stuff happen while engaging the ICT community, and other smart people, for a very very small cost. Ummm… You can contact me through the website that is linked.

     
  15. Mike Mellor, 7. August 2014, 20:39

    Ian: I don’t know what you can’t agree with – I’m just describing what standard practice is in the public transport industry. Individual ICT is great, but it’s widely seen (rightly, I think) as just one element in information provision, complementary with things like public screens, printed timetables, maps, 0800 numbers etc. Naturally this mix will evolve, but I suspect screens will be around for a good time yet. Sorry about that!

    But if your ICT skills can make the information supplied to the screens/phones/whatever better, I would hope Greater Wellington would be listening.

     
  16. Paul, 8. August 2014, 11:33

    @ Ian Apperley, Mike is quite right. Smartphone services are not an acceptable alternative if you wish to service ALL your customers. Not everyone has or wants to use smart phones, I’m sure it is predominantly an age based issue. But many public transport users are older, so supplying only web based and “smart” technology ignores a large section of the customer base, while cheaper it would only be a partial solution. Leaving a large section of the customer base with no service at all.

    Cheaper, great for those who can access it, and probably the way of the future, but not sufficient as a standalone system right now.

     
  17. Trish, 9. August 2014, 20:36

    Thanks Paul, you are talking about me. My phone can text but I don’t do websites ‘cos I can’t read the tiny screen.

    But as I asked, Philippa at the Regional Council. Can you please tell us your text address so I can report rubbish on the screen when I see it? Surely you know how to text..

     

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