Bus RTI Signs Get a DLAY


Wellington has finally got real time bus schedule info on electronic signs - but it’s already been hit by the mysterious disease that has been plaguing Auckland’s signs for years.

We’ve been complaining for ever about the bus stop electronic signs which encounter buses on their way only to suddenly stall and the service vanish completely from the screen as if the bus never took off in the first place.

The real time info uses GPS information to let passengers see at bus stops and stations exactly when the next service will arrive.

We’ve been fobbed off for years with unintelligible semi- technical explanations about GPS systems not being activated correctly by drivers.

Now that Wellington’s system has become haunted the same way within weeks of the rollout, serious questions need to be asked about whether Auckland’s scheme should be scrapped and we find someone to do it properly.

Especially as train station info boards are also on their way.
The fact is it’s been hard to have confidence in a system that does not always work.

The Wellington problems have halted the rollout of the system.

Wellington’s bus info system began on March 31 with public availability of real time info  for all Go Wellington bus services, on the Metlink website and on its mobile counterpart.

The launch also marked the installation of the first display signs, including the indoor summary screen and display signs at individual platforms at the Lambton Quay interchange.

Two areas of ‘teething’ problems associated with the expansion of the project into its first phase and affecting the overall performance of the RTI system, quickly become apparent.

A report to the Wellington regional council from its senior transport planner said that one issue concerns the operational route data used by the system, and the other is a system software issue.

These have prevented the RTI system from tracking some journeys, and to revert to displaying scheduled rather than predicted departure times for those journeys.

How familiar!

At the same time, he insists that “The accuracy of departure time predictions has not been compromised, and continues to meet prescribed standards.”


Auckland's signs are not always reliable

He writes about the issues:

  • Operational route data:

The RTI system makes use of various data describing the operation of specific bus routes.

Some minor inconsistencies have been picked up and have been relatively straightforward to resolve, and differences in how the RTI system handles the data (compared with Metlink systems, for example), have been made consistent. A constructive joint programme with the bus operator and the RTI system supplier has been established, and has been progressively identifying and solving specific data issues.

  • Software Issues:

A more fundamental system performance issue became apparent soon after the launch, although the extent of its impact was masked by the route data issues noted  above. The problem affected the reliability of bus communication with the RTI system, which also meant that resolved route data issues could not be reliably communicated to buses.

The underlying cause of this communications issue has been traced to an original software configuration of on-bus equipment supplied for the wider system roll-out. A clear undertaking for its utmost priority for resolution was received from the system supplier, and at the time of writing manual rectification work is almost complete.   Since the above issues are firstly the consequence of expanding the system, and secondly of an introduced problem, neither was present in the Pilot phase of the project.  Despite these shortcomings, customer acceptance of RTI has been good.

  • Website crashes:

Despite prior testing, the launch of the Live Departures (RTI) functionality on the Metlink website contributed to some initial instability of the website itself. This was exacerbated by the demands made on the website by the number of users of Live Departures. A series of measures were put in place to successfully resolve the issue, and to insure against future recurrences as loadings inevitably increase through usage.

  • Display signs

The summary display sign at Lambton interchange has been relocated to an internal wall to reduce reflection and glare in harsh lighting conditions. Further improvement will be made with an anti-glare film, and the legibility of the information will be further improved with a revised format, larger font sizes and greater colour contrast.   The three platform display signs are scheduled to be changed for the planned 6-line (rather than 3-line) version of the same sign, which was not available at the time of launch.

As a result of the problems, it’s been decided to defer the extension of RTI to Valley Flyer services, which was suppose to happen at the end of May.

The report says: The alternative of pressing ahead and further propagating the outstanding issues carries some risk of undermining confidence in the system. This was considered less desirable than making  a fully robust, albeit slightly later deployment. ”

The Wellington Regional Council is consulting with Auckland Transport on its rollout of RTI for trains “with the objective of re-using aspects of the work being carried out in connection with extension of RTI to rail in Auckland.”

No time has been given for Wellligton’s train rollout.

The report says:

The requirements and scope of the real  time for rail sub-project have been reviewed and are being developed in further detail,  following discussion with KiwiRail on a series of jointly developed business requirements. At the time when the original business case for the RTI project was developed, the former ONTRACK programme to equip trains with  ‘KUPE’ positioning equipment was expected to extend to the passenger fleet, and to provide a suitable basis for the requirements of the RTI system. The RTI tender requirement was set for the development of an interface with rail operational management systems, for the acquisition of train position and service data.  The KUPE programme has not extended to the Ganz Mavag fleet of Electric Multiple Units (EMUs), although Matangi EMUs are equipped with KUPE positioning equipment. It is therefore necessary either to equip the Ganz Mavag fleet, or to adopt an alternative train positioning solution.  Options for means of carrying out the critical matching of train position information with service information (to enable the system to know which train is providing which service) remain under evaluation. It is therefore anticipated that  equipment costs and KiwiRail project management resource costs may be incurred beyond the original scope of the RTI project, and require approval for  funding from the project contingency. Further detail on this requirement will be reported when it is available.”

It is hoped to have at least some Auckland train station signs appearing by the RWC.

Australian-based Sigtec has the contract with Auckland Transport to upgrade the present signs located at rail platforms and at ferry terminals.

They are the ones who provide  the technology for real time information and traffic light priority for Auckland’s buses. So far it’s at over 5,000 stops on the Auckland public transport system, via the MAXX website and through SMS.

The upgrade promises to include enhancements and new formatting of information on electronic signs.
Enhancements is a kind word for what is urgently needed.




  1. Anthony says:

    Definitely not cool, the first time I saw these signs was outside the Domestic Terminal in Auckland waiting to use the bus which transfered us to the international terminal.

    I soon saw that 2 services within 5 minutes of each other stop then vanish from the screen. And we had to tell a very confused group of Australians that the “GPS” system should not really be relied on at all much to their surprise.

  2. Feijoa says:

    Auckland’s system is from an Australian supplier, isn’t it? Is it as inaccurate for our visitors back there or has it just been installed badly here?

  3. anthony says:

    Most of the main cities bus RTI in Australia has a much more reliable one, it even has a speaker for blind persons who cannot read the board.

  4. Matt says:

    The electronic signs are rubbish. It was the first time in a while I’d been in Auckland on the weekend and we were waiting for a bus from Takapuna to the city, and the bus we wanted magically disappeared from the screen. The paper timetable still had it listed so we had faith, and it came. Paper is definitely better than unreliable electronics in this case.

    And at the domestic terminal the side of the electronic board facing the exits is blanked out, so we didn’t know about the Airbus Express and got on a $5 more expensive shuttle. Why is that side blanked out? Vandalism by someone who’d benefit?

  5. James Pole says:

    I’m a bit surprised by the comments here. For me they are correct over 95% of the time — I actually rely on the web/mobile service to plan my bus journies on a regular basis. I would not want to scrap this very useful service just because of a few errors.

    And it does have a speaker. Perhaps people here have not actually used the system on a regular basis like I have…


Leave a Comment


XHTML: You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>