Monday, December 29, 2008

public transport performance standards

We have none and it sucks.

Twice in the past two weeks my bus run was canceled without notification, warning, or apology, despite perfectly normal weather and traffic and there is no way that this can be justified.

While waiting for a bus that never came, I was thinking about how to solve the problem, and the simplicity of the solution made me a bit annoyed. The ridiculously simple solution: real time monitoring.

A gps locater & a communication device for each bus + a bit of software and viola, problem solved.

The device would monitor the location of each bus and report it back on a real-time basis to the existing central dispatch center. The central station monitoring software would normally just collect information. If a bus gets more than, say 7 minutes late it informs the bus dispatcher, who decides how to respond.

The hardware would cost about the same as one day worth of diesel fuel. I can't imagine that the software would be too tough to put together.

For those of us who only ever take the same bus every day(which around here is the majority of riders), it could be set up to automatically inform us when our route is canceled or more than a certain set limit of minutes behind schedule, so we don't waste our time waiting for a bus that will never come. Theoretically, the bus stop itself could display an automatically updated schedule, but that would be asking too much. All I want is basic competence.

As it is, I have no confidence that the system will ever function properly, so I will just make sure that my next job comes with a parking lot.


Wildleaf said...

I hope you stick with the bus system. The GPS idea is probably just down the road, but I don't think it would be something that you could get just off the shelf, it would have to be custom with custom software. I'm guessing in the range of $5,000 per bus to throw a random number out. Plus then you need 3-5 people to monitor it, three shifts per day and weekend shifts. Plus it is kinda redundant, they have ways to call dispatch if they are late the problem is how to contact riders at the bus stop, which your answer wouldn't solve.

It was snowing the past two weeks cut them some slack. Besides the angle you should really be working from is not berating the bus system for making you late for work but instead questioning how you or your boss could possibly get upset about a silly thing you have no control over that happens only rarely anyway. Or how about how you consider waiting for the bus a waste of time? Isn't that your problem? Couldn't you be satisfied at the bus stop if you worked a little harder at it? Not saying it's easy.

There are five video cameras on my bus, my bus dips down in the front right with hydraulics so the unhealthy American can avoid lifting their foot another four inches, my bus has a full wheelchair lift, my bus has a computer announce the stops rather than the driver, my bus has the most uncomfortable seats with no leg room, my bus has an incredibly inefficient and time consuming way to pay for the trip. I guess I'm saying there are a lot I would like to change about the bus system.

In Ecuador they picked you up anywhere but you had to jump on. They had an assistant on each bus collect the money as the driver drove off. It was crammed but the buses had character and played music. They were comfortable to usually, cushion seats, with curtains. You could bring chickens on the bus and there were buses coming all the time so often that they didn't have transit schedules because you knew it was a matter of minutes before the next bus showed up.

Randomly checked out your blog off of facebook. I like your stuff.

shaun said...

The absent buses were unrelated to weather, occurring before and after the storm. During the weather, I made no attempt to use the system.

GPS chips are about $10 for OEMs and cell phones with integrated GPS chips are becoming common. Reprogramming them to report their position to a central station would be pretty straightforward.

The central station could then publish the information online and automatically alert riders who have subscribed to notifications.