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Bouquets for bus system from vision impaired


20 April 2004

Bouquets for bus system from vision impaired passengers

Blind and vision impaired bus passengers are crediting a new system on Auckland’s central city Link buses for enhancing their independence.

The Saab ITS system includes electronic signs at bus stops and on the buses that provide information about the next bus arrival or the next bus stop to be reached.

But for passengers with vision impairment it’s an audio part to the system they are finding so helpful.

Chris Inglis, Blind Awareness and Prevention divisional manager of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) says many of the foundation’s members catch the Link between the Foundation in Parnell and the Britomart Transport Centre in downtown Auckland.

“We’ve had feedback that it’s great not to have to rely on someone to tell them if a bus has just been, or how long they may have to wait for the next one and when they are nearing their destination,” Ms Inglis says. “It makes them independent. They can make their own decisions.”

Minnie Baragwanath, Auckland City Council’s disability advisor who is partially blind, says she is particularly pleased that it supports the council’s Disability Framework For Action launched last year.

“The Real Time system is another example of Auckland City's ongoing commitment to removing societal barriers,” Ms Baragwanath says.

The RNZFB is keen to see the system extended throughout the city and the Auckland branch of the Association of Blind Citizens NZ has added its support.

The service looks set to be rolled out across remaining bus routes.

Auckland City Council’s Transport Committee has decided stages two and three of the project, covering radial arterial routes and cross-town routes, should proceed.

Councillor Greg McKeown, the Transport Committee’s chairperson, says the committee knows there have been delays with implementing stage one, but there have been no cost overruns.

“We must press ahead with improving our bus services across the region and using technology, increasing bus numbers and creating bus lanes are all part of making that improvement,” Mr McKeown said.

“The anticipated benefits of the signal pre-emption and real time information system are already being seen. Monitoring of the system has shown 11 seconds has been shaved off the wait at many intersections for the buses and many journeys on the Link route are eight minutes quicker. That exceeds the project’s initial expectations.”

Another part of the system, signal pre-emption, has also meant drivers are less frustrated by waits at intersections that contributed to them not being able to keep to schedule. Buses equipped with GPS communicate their position on the route to the council’s traffic signals system and use this information to adjust individual traffic lights to reduce delays.

Bus passengers have not always been so supportive. Software glitches and information coordination difficulties, arising from the integration of traffic light, traffic and bus movement data from several sources in the trial stages, generated complaints early on in the trial.

But monitoring shows the system has been meeting consistently its 99.8 per cent system availability targets for the past two months.

The total cost for all stages amounted to almost $6.9 million, which will be funded by Infrastructure Auckland ($3.1 million), Transfund ($3.2 million) and Auckland City Council the remainder.

Operating costs are to be jointly funded by Auckland City Council, Auckland Regional Council and bus operators.


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