Electrical facilities interfere with real-time tracking of NSW buses

The real-time tracking of Sydney's bus fleet through apps is not always 100 percent accurate, thanks to interference from electrical facilities, according to the NSW government.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The New South Wales government has blamed interference from electrical facilities for real-time tracking not working for some buses.

Last year, the NSW government opened its real-time transport tracking information to a number of developers to allow the development of mobile apps that would include tracking of where a train or bus was at a particular time.

TripView, TripGo, and Arrivo Sydney now all contain real-time information about Sydney's public transport system taken from Transport for NSW's Public Transport Information Priority System.

While the bus fleet has been equipped with GPS trackers to give up-to-date information to commuters through the apps, the department's director general Les Wielinga noted in Budget Estimates yesterday that in some locations, there is interference with the tracking.

"There are a few isolated areas where communications experience difficulties in Sydney because of electrical facilities nearby. In those circumstances, sometimes the Public Transport Information Priority System and apps information goes back to the scheduled timetable, but there are very few of those and they are being looked at," he said.

Wielinga said that overall, the system is getting much better, with the information being given to commuters becoming much more accurate as time goes on.

"The quality of the data is improving all the time. It is a very sophisticated electronic system. The Public Transport Information Priority System actually talks to the traffic signals."

He said that when a bus approaches an intersection, the system will now check the cycle that the traffic lights are on at that intersection and adjust the estimated time of arrival of that bus accordingly.

Yesterday, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he would like to see more federal government agencies open data up to the public for app development, similar to the Transport for NSW experiment.

On the New South Wales government's new integrated electronic ticketing system, Opal, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said that 14,000 people have now signed up for the service, up from 10,000 in July. The system is available from 16 ferry wharves, as well as the Bondi Junction and City Circle loop rail lines.

Between now and March 2014, the system will be extended out to North Sydney, then out from Redfern to Strathfield, Strathfield to Hornsby, Epping to Chatswood, Wyong to the Central Coast, and along the western line to Emu Plains and Richmond. By 2015, the system will cover more than 300 stations and 5,000 buses and light rail.

The minister said that 70 percent of users have opted to use direct debit for payment, which means that customers do not need to top up their card themselves. There is also no expiry on the credit on the Opal card.

After implementing free Wi-Fi at Central Station, Berejiklian said that the NSW government is considering extending Wi-Fi across the transport system.

"We have made very strong efforts since we have been in government to make use of updated technology, whether it is reception in tunnels or whether it's apps on all modes of transport, whether it is looking at Wi-Fi options, we really want to use technology to improve the customer experience and we will keep working hard in that regard," she said.

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