Today’s traveller is well-informed

Author: Arie van Dijke

Placed on: 23 January 2018

Tags: travel information, smarpthone, technology,

HR_180327_BL1A2557

Arie van Dijke

Salesmanager

Arie van Dijke, Sales Manager at Mobility Solutions, knows everything about travel information. In his blog, he focuses on the future of bus and train travel information.

It wasn’t so long ago that those paper sheets in the bus shelter were the only information travellers had about when their bus would depart. And who still remembers those large, analogue blue signs at the bigger stations, at which everyone peered, straining their necks to check the train departure times? No displays or use of digital, just old school, like those yellow departure timetables on the platforms.

170418ST_BL1A8867Photographer: Tjitske Sluis


Central control

The world now looks totally different, literally. There are digital screens at train and bus stations and in many bus shelters, stating exactly when the bus or train will depart. Connections between buses, trains, metros and trams: it’s all easy to check. Not only at central points and in bus shelters, but also on every smartphone. Every traveller can use an app or go online to check exactly what time the train is due to arrive, where the bus is and in how many minutes it will be at the bus stop.
And this is all possible thanks to a central database, in which data from every transport provider’s bus, metro, train and tram can be found. Strukton Systems uses this data for its dynamic travel information systems (DRIS). DRIS enables every traveller to access up-to-date information about the location, arrival and departure time or platform change of trains, buses, metros and trams. At the stops and at the station and in the vehicle itself.
The countries around us don’t have such a central database. For instance, in Germany this is arranged per city. If you travel by public transport from one city to the other, you often need to do this using only the scheduled times.

“The age of monochrome screens is behind us. We are now all staring at TFT screens”

Push of the button

Returning to home. Not only is the information itself becoming more precise, but the quality of screens is improving too. The age of monochrome screens is now behind us; we’re now all staring at so-called TFT screens and the transition to full-colour LED won’t be long. More beautiful but more functional too. For instance, you can use colours to indicate delays. Or the colours of the bus lines. It’s becoming increasingly sophisticated.
The paper timetables at the bus stops are actually still there. Once a year, when a new bus service timetable is introduced, a group of transport company employees sets off to replace all these sheets. My prediction: within the foreseeable future, there will no longer be a paper timetable at every bus stop, but there will be a display showing the timetable. This offers increased flexibility: with one proverbial push of the button, you can update the timetable in every bus stop remotely.
As well as the standard LED and TFT screens, there are also some 2,500 to 3,000 displays powered by solar energy. These are relatively small screens that are particularly suitable for small bus stops. An important advantage of these displays is that they cost relatively little. This enables travellers to access up-to-date travel information even at a small bus stop.

170418ST_BL1A9273Photographer: Tjitske Sluis

 

“We can often remedy faults remotely, sometimes even before anyone has noticed them’”


24/7 monitoring

Perhaps you think: all this digitisation is nice, but what if there’s a power cut or the central database is temporarily offline? Good point. We are all very dependent on good and accessible information, so faults are to be avoided at all costs. That’s why Strukton offers a 24/7 monitoring service. We monitor everything carefully from our new Operation Control Center in Maarssen. Not only for our own displays, around 900, but also for those of transport company RET, which is active in the Rotterdam region, and GVB displays for the Noord Zuidlijn (North South line) in Amsterdam.
We can often remedy faults remotely, sometimes even before anyone has noticed them. And if it can’t be fixed remotely, our engineers set off immediately. Of course with just one goal: getting everything operational again as quickly as possible.

170404ST_BL1A8289Photographer: Tjitske Sluis


Customised information

I expected the number of central, physical displays at stations and bus stops to decrease. After all, more and more people have smartphones, so they have all travel information in their trouser or jacket pocket or bag. But different research studies have shown that travellers still value these displays.
Nevertheless, I do think that the smartphone will become even more important for travellers. Because, thanks to this central database, we can customise DRIS even more (meaning: personalise it). For instance, a service in which travellers automatically receive a brief notification on request if ‘their’ bus or train is delayed. Rushing to catch a delayed train or bus will then be a thing of the past.