Final year journalism undergrad. Former City Hub co-editor. Traded three years for a film degree. Fresh from a year in Europe: half study, half shenanigans.
Have you ever been caught at a bus stop with a dead smartphone or know someone who just doesn’t own one? Smart bus stations will make sure that you won’t ever be out of the loop in Sydney CBD.
UTS Transport Sociologist, Claudine Moutou said that people are missing out on important information, such as waiting times and cancellations, which affect our safety, willingness to use buses, and our inclusion of every walk of life.
“We are in danger of drawing a line between those who do have smartphones, and do have the funds to have a contract, and do have it all powered up or what not, and those that don’t,” she said.
City of Sydney hopes to one day have intelligent bus stops that could make real-time transport information more widely accessible, as part of its 2030 goal for a ‘smart city’.
“One important thing to remember is that we want to build a city that is accessible for all people, and not everyone has an iPhone, let alone an iPhone with the specific app downloaded to receive bus information,” Sydney Councillor, Jess Scully told Central News in a statement.
Matthias, a UNSW Associate Professor, was key in a responsive transport environments project, ‘Interchanging’.
The plans may see live timetables, bus crowding data, and local information at our fingertips while you wait for or get off a bus.
Moutou thinks the plan is a good step in improving the lives of those most dependent on public transport, such as those who are less tech-savvy or in lower income groups.
“So, there’s a large group of people there that are potentially a little bit more vulnerable, they might be more reliant upon getting to medical appointments and getting to that important job interview, and they don’t have that real-time data,” she said.
UNSW Associate Professor, Matthias Hank Haeusler has spent around five years looking into mixing digital technologies and architecture, with the goal of bus stops responding with its larger environment.
He said that displaying a bus’s available space could also improve the existing network in the meantime.
“It will mean you have the same amount of buses going, but through an intelligent system, you will be able to channel more people through it,” he said.
“So, instead of just being forced to take one bus without really knowing what the next bus could be, you have a chance to make an informed decision of how you want to dictate your route.”
Monash University public transport researcher, Chris De Gruyter said that this might also allow for more spontaneous decisions to be made, rather than a planned one you can make with an app.
Mitchell, an electrician student in his early 20s said that he can’t see how knowing if a city bus is crowded will make a difference.
“I guess, even if someone saw that the bus was overcrowded, they’re still not going to wait for the next bus. Like, who would wait to get home later? You’d pack it on anyway,” he said.
Richard, 54, works in Ultimo, and although he prefers not to use his smartphone, he doesn’t think the plans are viable in the city’s peak periods.
“In the peak period, you can’t trust that information. Sometimes when you see the information, you say ‘oh, three minutes. I’ll wait, okay’, and then in one minute time, it’s changed, bus is full again,” he said.
He suggests putting the money into creating more frequent routes with smaller buses instead, like in Hong Kong where he said there is less reliance on timetables.
T-way rapid-buses running between Parramatta and Liverpool featuring real-time bus and stop information was opened by the NSW Government in 2003.
Ten years later, the rapid bus route was handed to private operator Transit Systems Sydney, after which information announcements and displays were removed.
De Gruyter said that accuracy of information needs to be guaranteed for success.
“If that’s not up-to-date and completely accurate, then people are going to start losing faith in it,” he said.
Moutou said that the new stops will be introduced in a time where information is more readily available and more open in the ways it can be used, as opposed to 15 years ago.
“I think we have the information architecture right to be able to deliver up-to-date information more sensibly,” she said.
NSW Transport already offers data for a range of transport apps, including TripView, which allow for real-time location and updates of transport, and space availability on buses.
Moutou hopes to see that the city helps other major centres, including Burwood, Parramatta, and smaller local areas with smart bus stations once they are successful.
“We might end up with a bit of a patchy network, where there are people outside the bounds of the City of Sydney that don’t have that kind of information and might feel kind of disadvantaged,” she said.
De Gruyter suggests placing them on routes less likely to be used by smartphone users.
“It also depends on the users. If they’re bus services to a university for instance, you can probably assume a very high proportion have mobile phones,” he said.
MUSIC CREDIT: “Something Elated” by Broke For Free Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License (Modified: Second half of song replaced with repetition of beginning).