Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Breach of blind man’s rights spurs $8M transit PA system

with 4 comments

Jake Rupert, The Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 29, 2007 in the Ottawa Citizen

After a finding that OC Transpo drivers not calling out bus stops breached a blind man’s human rights, transit officials are instructing drivers to do so and are seeking $8 million to install automated announcement systems.

“The technology required to automatically announce stops will be phased in over three years, beginning in 2008,” says report from city transit staff on the issue. “In the interim, we will maintain vigilance in fostering good customer service by announcing major stops when possible.”

The report, which will be tabled at the city’s transit committee next week, comes in response to a ruling by the Canadian Transportation Agency in April.

Another one of those “quality of service” issues – and because it touches on the case of a person with disabilities something is being done about it – in Ottawa. But the practice of calling out stops matters to many people, not necessarily those who may have recognised disabilities. If you are travelling in the evening, or when it is raining and the bus windows are all steamed up, or you are in an unfamiliar part of town, getting the driver to let you know when your stop is coming up can be very important. Of course, that means the driver has to remember which stops have been asked for. The #98 B Line did have an automatic annunciator but that died with the rest of the GPS system. (In London the drivers call the automated voice “Sonia” – because she “getsonianerves”)

So far as I am aware it is pretty hit and miss here – but this should set a precedent and other transit systems ought to sit up and take notice. But I would bet that because our provincial human rights watchdog is now almost totally useless that Translink will try to duck this one.

But they shouldn’t. And they have to realise that making the system work better for people with disabilities makes it better for everyone. Yes there are trade offs. You loose some seats with a low floor bus and some time at stops when someone in a wheelchair gets on and off. But you make that up in much faster loading and unloading for everyone else, and people with heavy bags and strollers thank you too.

Besides, the days when we treated some groups of people in ways that separated them from the rest of society should by now be long over. Equal access for all should not still be a campaigning slogan but a universally accepted principle. It is to the shame of the transit system here – and in Ottawa – that it is not yet.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 29, 2007 at 3:32 pm

Posted in disability, transit

4 Responses

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  1. TransLink’s new radio system features automated stop announcements. New articulated buses are supposed to get reader boards as well. The new radio system, which I believe will eventually be installed on all the buses, has some other neat features as well.

    On YouTube, search for “Translink E40LFR 2163” for a short video of the stop announcements on route 17.


    June 29, 2007 at 4:18 pm

  2. I always compare Vancouver’s bus system to Hong Kong because I that’s another transit system with which I am very familiar. Almost all of their buses have reader boards with announcements for each stop. Also, because there are 3 official languages in Hong Kong – Cantonese, Mandarin, and English – the stops are all announced in these languages. It can become a bit much at times, but it is understandably helpful to lots of people, especially visitors like me.

    To me, the reader board is a life saver because I can read what the next stop is and get ready to alight the bus.

    TransLink, in general, is getting better, but it is far from being “world-class” in terms of signage and necessary announcements.


    June 29, 2007 at 5:05 pm

  3. My understanding is that TransLink will be installing ennunciators (sp?) and LED readers in all buses. There are currently a couple pilot buses testing out the new communication system roaming around the region (I saw/heard one on the #6 a while back).

    Slowly but surely things like this are becoming standard, much like bike racks & low-floor vehicles. I guess you could say that that’s progress.


    June 30, 2007 at 11:07 am

  4. Buses to receive audio announcement systems
    GPS, satellite-based units will be installed on new trolley and B-Line buses starting in August
    Linda Nguyen, Vancouver Sun
    Published: Wednesday, July 04, 2007

    GVRD – Coast Mountain Bus Co. will install 250 audio announcement systems on its Greater Vancouver bus fleet as early as August.

    Representative Doug McDonald said the transit management and communication systems, to be installed on new trolley and B-Line buses, will automatically announce each stop by using GPS and satellite-based technology. The units are part of a $44-million system that will include a computerized co-pilot, a radio system for drivers to communicate with security and the capability to determine bus mechanical problems.

    read the whole story

    Stephen Rees

    July 4, 2007 at 6:18 am

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