New real-time information system for Canterbury public transport

Late last year, Environment Canterbury and Christchurch City Council successfully launched the new Real Time Information (RTI) system for the Metro public transport network. The implementation was completed when the Bus Interchange technology was upgraded.

Over the past 12 months, the project has refreshed and upgraded Metro’s RTI system by replacing the old radio solution with a GPS solution supplied by NEC NZ Limited.

Solution items include enhancements for:

  • the bus interchange
  • on-board equipment
  • street bus locators
  • feature-rich bus location data
  • online tools for passenger travel, and
  • Third-party APIs to power mobile apps.

The new system also provides a bus operator management system that allows operators to manage their buses according to metro timetables and helps monitor and measure the reliability of buses on the Greater Christchurch network.

Real-time information is a real game-changer

Once the project is complete, Metro customers can benefit from accurate, real-time arrival information. Every bus in service on the Greater Christchurch network provides a position update every second, and with a high level of accuracy.

“This speed of information gathering is crucial to being able to monitor and manage where and when we need to change or make improvements to the network or timetables,” said Jeremy Dickson, director of business services and public transport improvement. of Environment Canterbury.

The previous system suffered from black spots in certain areas, where radio frequency data could not be relied upon and the new system is designed to be able to be integrated with other systems and evolve over time.

“As the Metro network grows, technology advances and customer expectations rise, we need to be able to scale to meet those expectations,” Dickson said.

Project partners are excited to implement a new system

NEC New Zealand chief executive Mel Barber said they were excited about the opportunity to work with the project partners to implement this new technology.

“This commitment is part of a multi-year agreement that will allow us to partner to continuously improve the travel and passenger experience for Cantabria. NEC is committed to continuing the construction of our center of Smart Transport excellence in the ANZ region,” she said.

The project was complex, involving multiple parties, software and hardware for a fleet of 251 buses and the Diamond Harbor Ferry.

“COVID-19 restrictions in the midst of the upgrades caused planning complications, but the project team, operators and NEC were very nimble in their delivery and we’re really glad we were able to do that” , Dickson said.

“With many stakeholders involved in the project, getting to a stage where we’re all happy with how things are going is a very good outcome,” he said.

“The Bus Exchanger, which allocates buses to bays in real time, had to completely change its hardware and software.

“Upgrading the system on a network that operates 19 hours a day, 7 days a week was always going to be a challenge. There was little room for failure, testing and deployment.

“One of our main goals in this implementation was to not disrupt our passengers. We are proud that we were able to achieve this goal,” he said.

Christchurch City Council’s director of transport operations, Stephen Wright, said the new system will mean there will be more accurate and accessible information at bus stops across the city.

“The new bus detectors are easier to see, hear and use, making it easier to catch the bus,” he said.

Regional planning provides a framework for improvement now and in the future

During the development of the Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP), reliability and punctuality were highlighted by the community as essential to public confidence in and use of public transport.

“It’s the key system that underpins our ability to deliver service that meets those expectations and to measure and improve services over time,” Dickson said.

Now that the real-time information system is in place, service improvements can be made, such as managing and minimizing bus grouping, and improvements to driver display units with step-by-step instructions to help to driver training.

The NEC system also has built-in machine learning which, over time, adapts to the impact of traffic at peak times of the day and/or week to accommodate traffic within its arrival times. planned.

“These and other opportunities emerging with the new solution will enable us to continuously deliver the improved reliability that we have set ourselves the goal of achieving through our RPTP,” he said.

Customers will notice some changes

The launch means customers will notice changes including better accuracy of journey planning tools and third-party mobile apps, correct pronunciation of te reo at the interchange, and more advanced street infrastructure, including synthesis options. vocal.

Customers using metro services in hilly areas and on the edge of the network will also benefit from increased real-time tracking coverage where it was previously unavailable, meaning their estimated arrival times buses will be more accurate.

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