Day 22 – Part Deux – Live close to where you work or work close to where you live

7 Oct

Sometimes I see a good idea over here in Germany and I wonder if it has already been implemented in Canada. At least once a day I’m all like, “man, we should totally do that back home” or “it’s so stupid that in Ottawa we don’t do that, my God”.

I had one of those moments yesterday on my way home from school. In Berlin most of the tram stations and all of the subway stations have these LED displays that indicate when the next tram / subway is going to arrive. They have this in Ottawa but it’s not set up like it is here. Allow me to explain:

In Ottawa it’s like this

  • the electronic timetables are only found at the larger Transitway stations (Hurdman, Campus, Place D’Orleans are three that come to mind)
  • there is only one per station (someone correct me if I’m wrong)
  • they are usually located in the central area for the station – not at the place where people actually wait for the buses. At Campus Station the one display is located in the on the westbound side of the station inside the shelter. If you are familiar with this station you know that you have to walk about 50 meters to get to the other side. Here’s hoping that you don’t have to go back and check a second time.
  • the displays themselves are 20-inch, old tube-style televisions with a poor-quality low-resolution display and they suffer from a significant amount of burn-in
  • the back-end appears to be Windows NT (I’ve noticed some blue screens)
  • the information being displayed is (and I could be wrong) simply an electronic version of the paper timetable. So the bus could have come a minute early and it would still show that it has not arrived yet. This is important because sometimes people are able to take more than one bus and they may skip the less convenient one for the good one they think has not arrived yet.
  • because the stations with these displays are the large ones there are dozens of buses times that need to be displayed. So what you end up with is a rolling list of the different times because the screens don’t have enough real estate. Sometimes it feels like a life-or-death decision between waiting for your bus time to be displayed or just running to the stop.
  • the displays are showing the times for the buses traveling in both directions. You can’t just look up and see “the 95 comes in 5 minutes” you have to check the direction. Does not sound like a big deal but it is if you are in a hurry. You also have to know additional information like: direction Orleans is on the other side, Kanata is on this side. This can be confusing – especially for new users of the system.

The electronic display you've heard so much about.

I am aware that what works in Berlin might not work in Ottawa. Berlin is a city of 3.5 million people with a spread-out city centre with many high-density neighbourhoods. Ottawa is smaller with a compact downtown core with many low-density neighbourhoods spread out over a large area. Trams have dedicated roadways and are not as prone to traffic delays like buses are. These differences will influence the exact implementation of their respective public transportation systems. But that being said, there are some core components that I think would be the same in both cities. I will list them for you now (from an Ottawa perspective)

  • Every major bus station on the Transitway should have at least two electronic timetable displays
  • There should be a minimum of one display for each direction
  • Large stations like Hurdman should have four displays
  • The displays should be outside where the passengers wait for the bus
  • The displays should be capable of displaying n buses (where n is the number of buses that are serviced by that station)
  • The information should be the realtime e.t.a. for the bus (not simply the schedule – even though that would be a great place to start)
  • The displays should be a simple old school LED (like the one in the picture)
  • The information on the display should be for the buses going in one direction only
  • The displays should be dual sided

I want to be clear, the purpose of this post is not to shit on OC Transpo. I think overall they do an amazing job. And honestly I never gave much thought to the electronic displays because I almost never used / needed them. This is just my ideas on how the system could be made even better.

Note 1: it’s possible that everything I’ve written about OC Transpo in this post is inaccurate. I cancelled my bus pass back in June so they may have changed a whole bunch of things in the past 4 months.

Note 2: before you post any anti-OC Transpo comments, please re-read the title of this post

4 Responses to “Day 22 – Part Deux – Live close to where you work or work close to where you live”

  1. Sara Horton October 7, 2011 at 12:14 #

    I am a total believer of living close to where I work. I walk to and back from the office everyday and it’s great. I highly recommend it.

  2. loosy October 7, 2011 at 14:14 #

    There are quite a few tram stops without them, but the most important ones (especially where several lines meet) have them. On the others, there’s at least a timetable pasted somewhere. (Btw, I read this on the M5 ;))

  3. Lottabot October 7, 2011 at 14:59 #

    I’ve never seen a display of any kind on any OC Transpo station, so that’s how well hidden they are. And most OC Transpo stops don’t even have a paper version of the timetable just a stupid number that you have to call in case you’re wondering about when the bus is supposed to come. So annoying. OC Transpo should do some serious field tripping to see how things are done elsewhere. Even the Greater Helsinki Area which has the same size of population as O-town has a WAY more efficient, diverse and user friendly public transportation system. Just saying.

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