The wheels of the NXTBUS go round and round

By 18 December, 2013 10

Mayor Rattenbury is giving a progress report on the NXTBUS rollout:

Initial feedback from users of ACTION’s NXTBUS real time system is proving valuable in assisting with the roll out across the ACTION fleet, said Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Shane Rattenbury.

About 50 participants across a range of key stakeholders including Pedal Power and Guide Dogs Australia are participating in the testing.

“The testing is designed to provide valuable feedback on the usability of the system and to identify possible improvements,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“For example, while riding buses, participants have been asked to monitor the displays on the buses and the on-board announcement of the next stops to identify any issues with audibility or provision of unclear or inaccurate information.

“Participants are also testing the SMS service and passenger information displays at major stops, with testing of the web interface scheduled for early next year.

“This testing process is similar to that used for the successful implementation of the MyWay ticketing system in 2010. I thank all participants for so enthusiastically agreeing to take part in testing this exciting new initiative for public transport in Canberra.”

Mr Rattenbury said that work was progressing steadily on fitting out buses with the NXTBUS equipment, with a quarter of the bus fleet already installed.

“The progressive roll-out approach is similar to what other projects, such as iBus in London, have undertaken and ensures normal services continue to be delivered with minimal disruption.

“The first two display screens were installed at the City bus station in October with an additional 15 to beinstalled at all bus stations and selected major stops early in the new year. Updated signage has also been installed at the 3100 bus stops located across Canberra.”

“In addition, 100 Braille and embossed bus stop number plates have been installed at selected bus stops for vision impaired commuters. These locations were determined with the help of the Guide Dogs Association.”

NXTBUS will track ACTION buses and provide live information about arrival times via digital displays at bus stations and major stops, online, via SMS and by telephone. NXTBUS also shows when a bus is easy access and if it has a bike rack.

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10 Responses to The wheels of the NXTBUS go round and round
#1
davo1013:45 pm, 19 Dec 13

I hope this bit from the FAQ is true:

Will there be an official NXTBUS App?

No. However ACTION buses will make all data freely available allowing App developers to design their own Apps.

#2
magiccar94:17 pm, 19 Dec 13

“This testing process is similar to that used for the successful implementation of the MyWay ticketing system in 2010″

So is Rattenbury factoring in 1 year of ups and downs like commuters experienced with the MyWay system following it’s ‘successful’ implementation. Every second bus had problems with the machines where they either simply didn’t work, or wouldn’t let riders ‘tag off’ when they exited – thus charging them the full fare. They seem to have ironed out the niggles now, but I’d hardly call it successful at implementation.

Let’s see if they manage to get it right this time around.

#3
JC6:40 pm, 19 Dec 13

Many bus companies make their data freely available (biggest one that comes to mind is TfL in London), though it is surprising they don’t at least commission their own app.

#4
joingler9:26 pm, 19 Dec 13

As someone who is 100% reliant on the buses, NXTBUS has been a mixed bag.

The audio on buses is plain annoying and often too loud. It seems to be inaccurate also. Had one screen tell me it would take 14 minutes to get from Yerrabi Pond to Gungahlin Town Centre and another claim It was a 15 minute ride from Cohen Street to the Community Bus Station.

On the other hand, being able to text for the next bus at a stop has helped me judge which buses are running late/cancelled to help me organise myself better. The other handy point is knowing what buses have wheelchair accessibility. This is a handy bit of info for everyone as wheelchair buses are air conditioned and non wheelchair buses are not (this is a general rule, not an absolute). So in the case of multiple routes going to where I want, I then have a choice of waiting an extra 2 minutes at the stop to get on an air conditioned bus.

This will be a lot handier when all buses are equipped with the software.

#5
TP 30005:53 am, 20 Dec 13

JC said :

Many bus companies make their data freely available (biggest one that comes to mind is TfL in London), though it is surprising they don’t at least commission their own app.

It can be done, as Transperth (what I consider as the leader in running public transport in Australia) have released their own app for Andriod. While it may only be in the testing stages, their app will also show live tracking off buses on what buses have it. With the trains having had live tracking for a while.

#6
pajs9:09 am, 20 Dec 13

magiccar9 said :

“This testing process is similar to that used for the successful implementation of the MyWay ticketing system in 2010″

So is Rattenbury factoring in 1 year of ups and downs like commuters experienced with the MyWay system following it’s ‘successful’ implementation. Every second bus had problems with the machines where they either simply didn’t work, or wouldn’t let riders ‘tag off’ when they exited – thus charging them the full fare. They seem to have ironed out the niggles now, but I’d hardly call it successful at implementation.

Let’s see if they manage to get it right this time around.

There were certainly some teething issues with MyWay, but I’m not sure your assertion that half of all buses had problems for a year is quite right.

#7
Gungahlin Al10:53 am, 20 Dec 13

joingler said :

As someone who is 100% reliant on the buses, NXTBUS has been a mixed bag.

The audio on buses is plain annoying and often too loud. It seems to be inaccurate also. Had one screen tell me it would take 14 minutes to get from Yerrabi Pond to Gungahlin Town Centre and another claim It was a 15 minute ride from Cohen Street to the Community Bus Station.

On the other hand, being able to text for the next bus at a stop has helped me judge which buses are running late/cancelled to help me organise myself better. The other handy point is knowing what buses have wheelchair accessibility. This is a handy bit of info for everyone as wheelchair buses are air conditioned and non wheelchair buses are not (this is a general rule, not an absolute). So in the case of multiple routes going to where I want, I then have a choice of waiting an extra 2 minutes at the stop to get on an air conditioned bus.

This will be a lot handier when all buses are equipped with the software.

Indeed. I’m one of the testers and the SMS thing works well. Except my daily route is one of the ones that is normally serviced by dinosaur buses that aren’t equipped for it yet so I end up getting schedule info only.

Coincidentally, it is a route where one or two drivers frequently think nothing of being a full 5 minutes ahead of schedule and never stop to wonder why they only have half the passenger load they normally have. However, I must say @ACTIONbuses have been responsive to reports via Twitter, even checking in-bus video playbacks to confirm these reports and counsel drivers.

#8
ML-58512:26 pm, 20 Dec 13

davo101 said :

I hope this bit from the FAQ is true:
No. However ACTION buses will make all data freely available allowing App developers to design their own Apps.

There are many apps around which support real-time monitoring (for those cities which have it). Since NXTBUS is using an off-the-shelf product, it should be a simple matter for the app to turn on the feature, once ACTION release the data onto the internet. Meanwhile, if you use the SMS service, you can get pseudo real time data from the buses which have the system active.

I don’t see the need for ACTION to release its own app (and thus spend more public money) when free apps already exist.

joingler said :

The other handy point is knowing what buses have wheelchair accessibility. This is a handy bit of info for everyone as wheelchair buses are air conditioned and non wheelchair buses are not (this is a general rule, not an absolute).

For now anyway. There is at least one wheelchair-accessible but non-air conditioned bus with the system installed.

#9
imagineteamsol10:01 pm, 28 Dec 13

davo101 said :

I hope this bit from the FAQ is true:

Will there be an official NXTBUS App?

No. However ACTION buses will make all data freely available allowing App developers to design their own Apps.

Sadly, it’s been an uphill battle. When we asked for the data, we got a console log dump with no specifications at all. We’re still trying to get in touch with the right people, but whats clear is that the open-source data is an afterthought at best.

ML-585 said :

There are many apps around which support real-time monitoring (for those cities which have it). Since NXTBUS is using an off-the-shelf product, it should be a simple matter for the app to turn on the feature, once ACTION release the data onto the internet. Meanwhile, if you use the SMS service, you can get pseudo real time data from the buses which have the system active.

I don’t see the need for ACTION to release its own app (and thus spend more public money) when free apps already exist.

We’re all for saving money, but there can’t be a hands off approach. It makes it easier for developers to build things if they are built on standards (like GTFS or SIRI for the real-time stuff), but if there are going to be quality apps out there, it needs support from the Government.

#10
thatsnotme5:29 pm, 04 Feb 14

joingler said :

It seems to be inaccurate also. Had one screen tell me it would take 14 minutes to get from Yerrabi Pond to Gungahlin Town Centre and another claim It was a 15 minute ride from Cohen Street to the Community Bus Station.

I noticed this today too. I don’t know whether the time indicators on the buses are supposed to be fully operational or not, but they just don’t update the time to the next stop at all. Seems like someone’s loaded the timetable in, and that’s what the screens show regardless of whether it’s accurate or not.

So this afternoon, I was arriving at stops along Southern Cross Drive, and the display was telling me the next stop 300 metres down the road was 7 minutes away. The system updated the location ok, but the time was fixed. Really hope that’s not the way things will stay.

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