Rob O’Flanagan, Mercury staff
Guelph Transit is introducing a new automated next stop calling and display system, which is expected to make buses more accessible, and riders less likely to miss stops.
GUELPH Starting next Monday, Guelph Transit will roll out a new, next-generation automated “next stop calling and display system,” a high-tech system that, when completely installed will be more mobile device friendly. It is also expected to make public transit more accessible.
“It’s going to make it easier for riders because it will announce the next stops for them, and it will have an audible and visual display inside the bus announcing the next stop,” said Phil Meagher, general manager of Guelph Transit, speaking of Phase 1 of the project.
While the system is not specifically geared towards riders with disabilities it will make it easier for such people to use the bus.
“People will say, how did we ever live without it?” said Guelph resident Jim Sanders, former president and CEO of the CNIB. He said everyone will benefit, but especially those who have hearing and seeing challenges.
Sanders, who is blind, said the system will be “a godsend” for blind people. While information technology has made information much more accessible to those who are hearing and seeing impaired, the “last frontier is getting around.” The new system will make that easier.
“This is a tremendous move on the part of the city,” he said. “I look forward to using it.”
Meagher said it is expected to enhance the riding experience for all users, enabling better planning of trips, fewer missed rides or missed stops. The system, Meagher said, will add additional functionality for users.
“You’ll be able to plan your trips, and see in real time when your bus is coming to your stop,” Meagher said. “You’ll be able to go online on your Smartphone or other device and basically punch in your bus stopand it will be able to tell you when your next bus is arriving.” The latter function will be part of Phase 2 of the new program, which will be implemented sometime next year.
“With phase one you’ll be able to go online and, say you want to go from Woodlawn and Imperial to the downtown, find out what’s the fastest route,” he explained. “It will tell you when the next bus is arriving so you don’t have to stand in the rain and wait, but time yourself accordingly to get to the next bus on time.”
The visual and audible stop announcement feature will especially benefit those with hearing or seeing disabilities.
Bringing the system onboard has been in the works for about four years, Meagher said Thursday. Phase one involves testing it on six conventional buses and two mobility buses. If all goes well, all Guelph Transit vehicles will be equipped with the technology by the end of August. All buses are having the equipment installed now.
The entire cost of the enhanced system is just under $4 million, Meagher said. The first phase costs were part of the 2013-14 city budget. Installing the system is required under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The deadline for Phase 1 installation is Jan. 1, 2016.
Raechelle Devereaux is the director of programs and services for Guelph Community Health Centre. The agency works with people who have barriers to accessing health care services, including people with disabilities. A great many of its clients use public transit to get to medical appointments.
“One of our priority populations are people with moderate to severe disabilities, and that is because we try to increase access to health care for people with barriers,” she said. “If that bus ride can be made more accessible by helping people to know exactly where they are and when they need to get off, that is a benefit for the rider and helps them get to us more easily.”
Randy Pepper has been using Guelph Transit for 30 years. He said the new system likely won’t change his riding experience. He knows his routes very well, and doesn’t use a cellphone.
“I think it will be good for people who are always really busy on their cellphones,” he said with a laugh. “I see them all the time missing their stops because they were too busy texting.”