Passenger Information Systems (PIS): Your top 8 questions answered
In some cities, reliable passenger information is a deciding factor in increasing ridership. In most cities, it completely underpins the traveler’s satisfaction with a journey.
Real-time passenger information improves the entire transit experience and attracts new passengers, according to examples cited by the World Bank Group.
On bus routes with RTPI added in Chicago, the average daily ridership increased by 2%. New York City experienced the same increase over 3 years, which translated into more than $5 million in additional fare revenue per year.
Interestingly, in the Forbes ‘Top Eight Reasons People Give Up On Public Transit’, six of the reasons listed could have been avoided with more effective use of RTPI. There’s no doubt that real-time passenger information is essential to modern urban mobility and underpins future multi-modal transport systems.
Not only is passenger information vital to journey planning, it helps to reduce uncertainty at the point of departure and during the journey. If there are delays, travelers can take alternative modes or inform people at their destination that they are running late.
There are questions we frequently hear when helping our customers plan their passenger information system. We have covered the top 9 here.
1. We have nothing in place right now, where do we start?
You need to get your vehicles connected. Starting with implemented computer aided dispatch/automatic vehicle location (CAD/AVL) tracking system on your vehicles. This can be done across the entire fleet, or you can scale by starting with main routes or lines between interchange stations.
The greatest value comes to you and your passengers when the entire transport system is on-line, but this isn’t always possible at the outset due to resource constraints. Most modern passenger information systems are modular and can be scaled to meet your requirements.
2. How do we ensure our data quality is good enough to give to the public?
This can be a challenge for bus transit. One of the main problems in urban areas is the steady growth in car ownership and traffic levels. This has a direct impact on the ability to provide reliable road based public transport services.
So, consider this scenario. The passenger is at the stop at 7.15, expecting the service to arrive at 7.22 as per the schedule they consulted earlier in the day. The digital display says the service will arrive in 9 minutes. The passenger can see the bus is running slightly late but is okay because she has been told. But then it doesn’t arrive for another 13 minutes due to congestion. She boards the bus feeling perplexed and loses confidence in the quality of the information.
The reality is that vehicle tracking systems simply cannot factor ‘real-life’ into bus arrival and journey time predictions. This is where prediction engines that use artificial intelligence come to the rescue. Designed to analyze data accuracy and service performance at different times of the day and days of the week, they can significantly improve ETA prediction accuracy.
Very accurate ETA is also crucial to operational control and the passenger experience, enabling transport providers to run services that meet the public’s changing demands. It also underpins intermodal trip applications, helping travelers to plan interconnecting services and enabling connecting shuttles to moderate waiting times if needed.
3. How do passengers prefer to access information?
The reality is, there are many distribution channels and the traveler values as much information as possible. Different customer groups will have different preferences, depending on demographics and any accessibility requirements.
- Journey planning: Typically, a website or a mobile app and Google maps
- On the way: Mobile app, notifications and SMS alerts
- At the station: Powered information displays with audio system and/or Bluetooth device
- At the stop: Energy efficient information displays with audio system and/or Bluetooth device
- On the move: Screens onboard with an audio annunciation system
Ideally, you need a system that is omni-channel to ensure the passenger has access to consistent real-time information at all stages of their journey. The starting point is to understand what will work for both your present and potential customer base.
4. What type of information should we provide?
This depends on your goals or if you have specific challenges that need to be addressed as a priority. It also depends on the stage of the journey.
Typically, travelers are looking for route, timetable, arrival times, travel time, connections, incidents, delays, fares and discounts. This can be supplemented with other local information such as weather, events, news, services and so on. The most important thing is that the information is accurate (as we have covered in question 3).
5. We want to make the information available to everyone. How?
Great, so do we. This means making provisions for people with mobility issues, audio or visual impairment. You can do this by selecting technologies that are intuitive, accessible and safe, created with the user needs in mind.
When designing your passenger information system, you could consider the following: readable font styles and colors, display readability, display positioning, audio announcements, text-to-speech functionality, audio stations, hearing loop system, beacons or Bluetooth devices and braille.
6. Can we actually improve punctuality with a passenger information system?
It has been widely reported that passengers have greater confidence in the punctuality of services following the introduction of a real-time information system. It removes the uncertainty of not knowing when the bus will arrive and helps travelers to feel safer.
Passengers have reported that buses seem to come much quicker, it feels like they are waiting for less time and the time seems to pass more quickly. Furthermore, people know whether they can ‘pop to the shop’ or do other things to fill the waiting time if needed.
The truth is, this is perceived punctuality.
When it comes to actual punctuality. The answer is a massive yes. Integrate your passenger information system with your transit management system, and you can completely transform real-time fleet management and operations. Not only is this essential for supporting public transport priority measures (such as triggering bus priority at traffic signals), service controllers can better regulate services to make them more reliable.
If you have advanced analytics and reporting capabilities, you can go one step further. It gives you off-line insight into how your transportation system is performing and enables you to improve schedule efficiency. Look for a system that enables you to benchmark against transport operations in other cities.
7. Does the system help drivers?
It does if fully integrated with a modern transit management system. Vehicles can be equipped with a driver terminal which acts as the link between the driver and the control system.
These compact computer systems typically have a touchscreen display with a graphical user interface. It gives the driver visibility of route, schedule and headway performance real-time. It can display alerts, updates, messages and incidents, as well as step-by-step route diversions. It also provides direct two-way voice communication between the driver and service control, as well as an emergency alarm.
It helps drivers to maintain on-time performance and gives them added safety and security.
8. How do we make sure we can integrate with other transport modes in the future?
Today’s modern technology is all about the future. The future is all about open systems.
An open system will not lock you in or limit your options. An open system provides maximum flexibility as your needs evolve over time. If your technology roadmap takes a sharp left turn, your system will allow you to adapt. You have the freedom to bolt on new services or incorporate new technologies as they are introduced to the market.
Open systems are essential if you want to embrace the smart mobility eco-system.
At one level, this means bringing every aspect of your service and operations into one integrated platform, such as operations control, fleet management, planning and optimization, passenger information and infotainment, ticketing and fare management, passenger counting… everything. At the multi-modal level, this means being able to connect your systems with other transport modes, so that passengers benefit from unified journey planning and a seamless journey experience.
Implementing an open system is how you make sure you can integrate with other transport modes in the future.
If you have any other questions not addressed here, please get in contact with us.
Find out how LIT technology can help you to provide transit services that your city needs, and your passengers want, contact us here.