Real-Time Takes Time

Ideas and Opinions
Digital Screen Dunedin Bus Hub August 2022

Dunedin Hub Bus Information

Dunedin’s new bus hub opened in March 2019. With lots of fanfare. Total cost was about 5 million dollars. Including for these lovely big digital screens. I was keen to see the new hub. I was looking forward to the great leap forward, assuming real-time bus information would be included. Like how many minutes until my next bus. Big disappointment. It dawned on me that the information was just the timetable. Even though the buses had GPS tracking. Even though other cities had had real-time bus information at bus stops for many years. Even though most other jurisdictions in most countries already had real-time information at bus stops. We just got the timetable. We’ve had timetables at bus stops in Dunedin as long as we’ve had buses. Probably when we had trams we had timetables too. So, our fancy new digital screens were continuing a long tradition. Unfortunately.

Since then, we have been introduced to a new phone app which does display the real-time bus location with an estimate of when it’ll reach our location. But not everyone knows how to use a phone or how to download the app or how to make it work. Actual displays at the bus hub and the bus stops where there are shelters would be the place that the real-time information is needed most. I checked last month at the bus hub, hoping the digital screen would now show the information passengers really need – when is the next bus coming? And found we are still stuck in timetable mode.

Real-Time Bus Information Update

I asked the Otago Regional Council to confirm this. And got a prompt and helpful reply, as follows:

Currently the Bus Hub screens show scheduled timetable information but we are trialling a live data feed on an electronic display. It’s currently set up in MacAndrew Bay, which shows bus departures based on real-time bus locations and times, so that passengers can see whether services are running to time, are delayed, late or cancelled. We hope this trial will be successful and we’ll be able to introduce this to the Bus Hub in the future. It’s just right now we cannot make those displays update unfortunately.

Customer Services, Otago Regional Council, 23 August 2022

Here’s Hoping …

It’s good that they are now trialling real-time bus information at stops. But hard to understand how it can have taken so long to get to this stage. We’re not the first place to implement real-time details. We’re perhaps even towards the last. The technology must be well sorted out by now, along with the instructions on how to get it going. Here’s hoping the trial works like it’s supposed to. Here’s hoping the Regional Council implements it at the bus hub soon. And then gets enthusiastic and keeps going and introduces digital signs at all the major stops along all the routes saying when the next bus is due. Wouldn’t that be lovely. Car drivers will see signs saying, “Next bus to Bus Hub in 6 minutes” and maybe start to think that buses might be useful.

Fancy sign at the bus hub, showing which stop to wait at (helpful) and the time the bus might depart.
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