An excellent new blog about public transport issues in Auckland has been started up by Suresh Patel. One of the most fascinating elements of the new blog is that it allows us a bit of an insight into some of the inner workings of Auckland’s public transport system, because Suresh is undertaking a Teacher Fellowship scheme, looking into the effectiveness of new technologies used by Auckland’s public transport systems. Suresh has some fascinating insights into how our current public transport systems utilise various forms of technology, in particular how buses are tracked around Auckland.
In a recent post, we are provided with a really interesting look at the RAPID system, which is used to provide bus drivers with an idea about where their bus is compared to where it’s scheduled to be. Not only are bus drivers aware of this, but the offices of the various bus companies are also able to, at a glance, see whether their buses on the road are running ahead, on or behind schedule. This is encapsulated in the images below, at a zoomed out and more zoomed in level: Suresh explains the pictures above:
The colours denote how the vehicle time is running according to schedule. Yellow means the bus is on time, green indicates the bus is ahead of time and a red triangle signifies a vehicle running behind schedule by more than a predetermined number of minutes.
You’ll notice there are a lot more red and green shapes. That’s because the window for a bus to be considered ‘on time’ is very small. Riding around on buses it is very easy to see why it’s difficult for drivers to stick to the schedule. All routes have a built in buffer to allow for slight delays. Therefore if all is going well and there are no hold ups or few passengers a driver can easily get ahead of time.
However, during peak times (when this screen shot was taken), it is common to see a number of buses held up.
Interestingly, as will be fairly obvious by looking at the geographic location of the triangles, this is for a bus company not yet using the HOP system, yet we’re still able to get all this information. Clicking on an individual bus also provides even more detail:
For privacy reasons I’ve blocked out the Passenger count and Route number. The Passenger count tells how many people have boarded the bus for this trip. This information could be useful to decide whether a service requires additional buses or may need to be modified in some way.
At the bottom of the screen you can see the ‘Late time’. In this case the bus is running 8 minutes and 6 seconds behind schedule. The time is highlighted red because the delay is outside the acceptable limit.
Overall I must say I’m pretty pleasantly surprised by the level of sophistication that we see behind the scenes in the tracking of our buses. This is certainly a vast contrast to the “self reported” reliability statistics for bus operation that we see showing up in all of Auckland Transport’s monthly reports.
One wonders whether we might be able to see, report in the future, some indication of the percentage of bus services that arrive at their destination within 5 minutes of what was scheduled. It would also be good to have contract payments (after all the vast majority of bus services are publicly subsidised) linked to on-time performance statistics too. We might then see the bus companies pushing really strongly for better bus priority measures I would imagine!