In every aspect of life there are little things that can end up really frustrating. Things that should be really easy to fix but that for some reason never are. Here are a couple of things that really bug me about public transport, all rail-related as that’s what I mainly use.
Show a full RTN Map
Auckland transport classifies the PT network in a few different ways. The most prestigious of these, and one that all budding PT routes aspire to be, is the Rapid Transit network. This select group consists of routes that largely have their own right of way – the rail network and the Northern Busway. The problem is that if you catch a train, you wouldn’t even know that this high frequency, good quality bus service exists. It simply isn’t shown on the maps, as for some reason AT only ever seem to show mode centric maps. To me it would be such a simple problem to solve – on the rail maps add in the Northern Express. After all, the Northern Express services are run just like a rail line with buses only stopping at the busway stations. The same signage should also be displayed at busway stations and on the buses themselves.
Going a step further, it would be even better if the signage at Britomart showed the connection. The point of all of this is to show the RTN network as a whole, rather than just a mode specific map.
Fix the rail text service
This one really bugs me. Auckland Transport have a free service that will send you text message updates if there are problems with services that you normally catch. A great idea, when it works. However, far too often it simply doesn’t, with some text messages coming though hours, or even days after the event. Not very useful. When they do work correctly, it frustrates me how each message comes from a different number. It means that the alerts clog up my inbox with random numbers, instead of allowing me to aggregate them within one contact. At this point I feel that if AT can’t resolve the problem then they need to pull the service, as it really is unprofessional.
If they do get the alerts working correctly, it would be great if they linked the messages to other services – e.g. twitter and mobile apps.
The use of the term ‘Operational Incident’
Related to the point above, it seems that 90% of the time the reason given for any delay is an “Operational Incident”. Basically anything that doesn’t fall into the category of signals, points or train failure gets lumped into this category. So it covers a wide variety of issues such as not enough drivers, poor management, slow passengers, drivers running a red signal, and everything in between. A catch-all phrase to describe that something has gone wrong without saying what the actual problem is (most likely because it would make AT or Veolia look bad). The problem is that passengers are getting thoroughly fed up with not being told what is actually happening, and I’m hearing frequently from people who say they are giving up using the trains as a result. AT/Veolia need to start giving out more detailed information about what is happening during a delay (even if it could be embarrassing for them), otherwise it’s likely that patronage will continue to drop.
This is actually two issues. First is the new habit of train managers (the ones who open the doors) to announce every few stops who they are. Is it just a way for staff to fill in time since they don’t collect tickets any more? While it might be useful for first-time users, the vast majority of passengers are regulars who just get frustrated with the constant messages. Related to this is the volume of the onboard train speakers. I’m not sure if it is a technical issue or not but they almost always seem to be either ear piercingly loud (especially the door closing sound), or so quiet that you can’t hear them. Can we please get these set to the same level across the whole fleet?
These are just a couple of examples. What are the little things that bug you when using PT? (and no I don’t count the real-time system not working properly as a little thing)