The benefits and drawbacks of Kingston Transit’s Audible Route Identifier

Written by Phillip Stafford

Photo by First Response Media.

Over the years I have had many chances to travel on Kingston Transit, and have been regularly surprised by some of the innovations and changes that have gone into making the system more efficient, accessible, and cost effective. In this opinion piece I want to touch on an addition that has been brought into use by Kingston transit in the past year.

Starting in early 2017, transit passengers and Kingston residents started hearing a strange electronic voice near bus stops, stating some numbers and a name of a street, neighbourhood, or well-known transit point. This is an audible route identification, used by persons of low vision, like myself, to board the correct bus. The system works (to the best of my knowledge) by announcing the route number and name when the bus is stationary at or close to a bus stop.

This system is a great service to those with low vision as it allows them independence in travel by giving them the knowledge of what transit buses are around them without having to go to every driver to ask if it is the correct bus for them to travel on. Some downsides to the system do arise, however, in areas that are noisy or have multiple buses (sometimes unattended), by making it hard to hear the identification of the buses in your vicinity, or having multiple buses speaking at once.

As a resident living along a bus route with a stop almost outside my front door, I find another issue seems to be in areas that are quieter, as the bus identification can greatly overpower the little sounds in the area and can be quite disturbing at earlier hours or later in the evening. As a person who relies on this system to determine their bus in a crowd at a busy transfer location, I find the buses aren’t always consistent with their announcing, and doesn’t appear to have a set interval or trigger when the bus is sitting.

Now that I have made my complaints it’s time for some ideas:

  • Provide a system to allow the speakers to adaptively increase or decrease in noise based on the audible surrounding.
  •  Have a uniformed system of when the buses identify themselves, in the form of a set timed interval when stationary, or a motion detection system allowing the bus to alert only when persons are present to listen for it.

These additions and innovations are becoming common place in many cities across the world in an effort to improve accessibility and the lives of everyone, but the companies that develop them, as well as implement, them require feedback from the people these systems affect to improve them. Please feel free to comment and make your likes, dislikes, and ideas known.

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