Is real time transit really reliable?

In November, Calgary Transit released the long awaited real-time system on a majority of the vehicles it has in operation.

The real time system was released at the same time as a new mobile-friendly website with the intent to enhance the way people use public transit.

While in theory the purpose seems quite helpful, debate exists among riders as to whether or not the system is actually accurate.

“With any technological system, things in the test environment can be close to perfect,” said Stephen Tauro, Communications Strategist for Calgary Transit.

“But when put in the real world there will always be minor tweaks here and there.”

He said real-time has multiple functions, all meant to be beneficial not only for transit riders, but also for employees on the back-end of the system.

It allows Calgary Transit to monitor buses on the road so that they can use it as a dispatch tool.

The operators and controllers can now more easily communicate about issues out in the field, therefore being able to more appropriately react and update transit customers as to what is going on.

More obvious to transit riders is the ability to look up real-time GPS-fed arrival times.

This is said to be far more accurate than just checking a schedule.

The GPS system also allows for the new audio/visual announcements on the buses when approaching major stops.

Accessible through the mobile-friendly site, any time listed with a star beside it indicates a GPS outfitted vehicle.

Applications now exist that will prompt transit to text someone’s phone number about certain stops at certain times.

“The real-time system calculates arrival times based on things like speed, location and distance to next stop,” said Tauro.

“It can not account for things like traffic or weather.”

Regardless of the attempts to make both the interactive Calgary Transit website and system more user-friendly, some riders are still not convinced.

ACAD student and transit user, Chelsea Allard, chooses not to make much use of the system.

She just does not feel the need to do so, as it often seems to be incorrect anyways.

“Honestly it is because I check the schedule before I have left the house and I give myself a large amount of time for mess ups,” said Allard.

She said she uses it from time to time if she is in an area of the city she does not often visit.

She then uses it to discover the quickest way to get home, but she is usually disappointed by the system’s lack of reliability.

“It is not accurate,” she said. “Calgary Transit is the worst.”

However, Tauro said these un-reliabilities could all just be growing pains.  Many people do not realize what goes on behind the scenes, and what is totally out of control of the controllers and operators.

Tauro recommends that customers check the transit website for information closer to the time they actually want to leave.

Checking even as much as 20 minutes in advance gives enough time for error and delays.

It is best to plan to be at the stop two to five minutes prior to the anticipated bus arrival.

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