Archived posts from this Category
Archived posts from this Category
Fredericton Transit just released a bus-tracker mobile app for Android. (or did they, as a recently printed Gleaner article implied it was CGI’s idea). It’s still in beta, and completely unfit for general use as they don’t have GPS tracking available for every bus in the fleet. However, it’s a great example of how open data can be used.
All of the screenshots below were copied from the Android Market page as Android phones don’t have the ability to take screenshots (unless they are rooted).
The opening screen implies that this app won’t just be for bus tracking. Hopefully we’ll see some more services on there soon.
Here we have the main menu. The bus tracker is the important part of the app, the route planner just takes you to your phone’s built-in Google Maps Transit navigation service, the schedule just goes to the city’s web site.
Here, we can choose which route to track. For a really good test, you can click “all routes”
And here’s the main screen. The first issue that jumps out is that we see the fleet numbers in the bus icons. This is because they are getting their data from the dispatch system. The fleet numbers are very useful for dispatchers, but not that good for the general public. If you click on one of the icons (like you see above), you’ll see the route numbers listed. Trouble is, as in the example above, you see two route numbers and no direction (N or S). If you’re waiting for a specific bus, you won’t actually know which one is yours until it is close enough for you to see the destination sign.
Great start, but needs some work.
At this time, nothing has been divulged. One hopes that they are able to fix some of the issues above before they go out of beta. For that to happen, they would have to have access to the dispatch schedules to determine which actual run the bus is doing. From there, they could determine how long you have to wait for the next bus at any particular location. That would allow for a phone (text or IVR) interface as well as other innovations such as display signs.
It would also be nice if they indicated the accessibility level of the bus. They could display an icon for a low-floor bus.
Once that is complete, the next step would be to open the data so it could be used by anyone. Don’t want to support an obsolete phone platform? No problem, let someone else do it instead. Want to let a business make their own transit info sign? No problem!
It’s a great start, hopefully the momentum continues and allows the app to get better.
Update: iOS version now on iTunes
Where did the wi-fi go?
There was a lot of hype about it, but then, nothing. There are two reasons:
1. It wasn’t cheap. Costs weren’t made public, but I can’t imagine it would have been cheap to equip every bus with it. As Fredericton Transit doesn’t seem to care that much about passenger amenities/comfort, they just decided not to spend the money.
2. It didn’t really work that well. During the test period, they had a live webcam attached to one of the buses. As that was using the same connection as the wifi, the connection could be tested without having to go on that specific bus. If you watched it for any period of time, you’d see that the camera image wouldn’t update if the bus was travelling more than 60km/h. It also had reception issues on some areas on the north side, including Marysville. They may have been able to fix them, but that could have been expensive.
Sadly, that also means that there won’t be any real-time GPS-based updates. That system came with the wi-fi. For the time being, you’ll have to call the transit info line for real-time updates. (Of course, that line is closed for most of the morning and evening rush).
Despite spending piles of money on accessible transit buses, Fredericton City Council members can’t seem to see the most obvious solution to deal with the shortcomings in their paratransit system.
They again failed to look at the relatively inexpensive option of designating certain regular transit routes as being accessible. How easily can they do this? For the past eight years, Fredericton Transit has been purchasing low-floor accessible buses. They already have enough to guarantee that some runs will only use those accessible buses. This will easily allow them to move the least impaired people onto the regular system while keeping the para-transit for the riders that need it the most.
Yes, it will take longer to load passengers, but remember that 10 out of 30 minutes of a Fredericton Transit bus’s run time is idling at King’s Place or the Regent Mall, so it won’t greatly affect on-time performance.
At this point, about half of the fleet is already low-floor. They could start with route #16, which goes by the medical clinic and the hospital. At some point (the year 2029), the entire fleet will be accessible, but until then, they can slowly add routes to the accessible list as the older buses are retired.
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In case you haven’t heard, a gas tank fell off one of the buses the other day, which is causing people to question the maintenance of the fleet. Here are some pictures I’ve taken over the years in regards to maintenance issues with Fredericton Transit. Figure it would be good to have them all in one place.
We’ll start with the mismatched fonts on the rear door. It makes them look bad, but not bad enough to warrant repainting it:
Next, we have a seat that’s been repaired with garbage bags. They didn’t even have the decency to use duct tape:
If you’re going to stand on the bus, it’s always a good idea to make sure those grab bars are properly attached to the seats:
If the destination sign’s a little dark, you’ll sometimes find a hastily hand-written sign in the window:
I’ll keep posting them as I keep finding them. I wasn’t able to get a picture of the leaky windows as it didn’t really show up in the camera. maybe someday, I’ll get video of the rattling and clanging they make when they go over pot holes.
Been a while since anything about Fredericton Transit has shown up on this blog. In August 2008, Dillon Consulting released their report with 18 recommendations to be completed in the next five years. We’re halfway through the 5 years, let’s see how they did:
(from page 117 of report)
Out of eighteen action items, they successfully did three of them. That’s a grade of 16.67%. Of the three things they did, adjusting the fares actually raised revenue, the new transit garage was mostly Federal stimulus dollars and the dial-a-bus review cost $46,000. They also attempted to remove service to Silverwood, that plan was cancelled after much public outcry.
Fredericton City council has shown that they like to talk about being green and sustainable, yet can’t actually spend money on being green and sustainable. Many of these action items won’t cost much to implement, yet they don’t have the initiative or will to do them. The next municipal election is in 2012.
As part of the “Sustainability. By Design.” process, we’ll have a quick look at Fredericton’s current municipal plan. Overall, it isn’t all that bad, however, there are a few particular areas that need a second look.
High density residential needs to be required in certain areas, especially large lots near major arteries. This will be needed to reduce the cost of delivering municipal services to a neighbourhood.
Section 3.4 insists that the look-and-feel of Brunswick St. needs to be preserved for “historic reasons”. If we want to expand our downtown, wouldn’t Brunswick St. be the logical choice for an increase in density?
Section 3.5 residential town plat – the worst example of NIMBY appeasement. Some parts will need to be redesignated for higher density housing, especially along transit corridors such as Regent, York, and Smythe. This will pit the environmentalists against the heritage preservationists, which might be entertaining to watch.
Section 3.7 seems to tow a hard line on the student ghetto. An effective transit system will allow students to move farther away from UNB/STU thereby reducing pressures on this neighbourhood.
The biggest mistake they made is that you can’t download the municipal plan as a single PDF file. That makes it really hard to find things if you are just looking for a few key words.
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Fredericton City Council used a sneaky and underhanded trick to deliver a cut in transit service to the Silverwood area. They snuck it in as a line item in their 2011 budget. This is probably why they didn’t release the budget documents until after the vote. The only way anyone could have found out about it was to have attended the “open” budget meetings. Even that would have been questionable as it may not have been mentioned at those meetings.
Even the transit commission was caught off guard, when asked about it, they replied with this:
Good day, it has not been finalized due to some confusion on councils
part, now would be the time to call your councillor and be very vocal
about not making any cuts to service. Call 460-2127 City Clerk’s Office
to find out who your councillor is and his number. Good luck
Everyone can appreciate that some runs may not have enough ridership to warrant service. This was the case with the Two Nations Crossing route. The big difference with that one was that the cut was pre-announced and fully debated in council.
Most of the budget debate has been about a statue. Not having a statue repaired may annoy some people, but it doesn’t affect peoples lives in the way that a transit cut would. People don’t rely on a statue to get to and from work. People don’t move to a neighbourhood based on the availability of a statue. People won’t have to buy a car if they suddenly lose access to a statue. Transit matters to a lot of people. It’s time that the City of Fredericton starts taking it seriously.
Update: 11:55am: Article edited to clarify the fact that the cuts are only for the Silverwood area.
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As of June 26, 2010, the SMT/Acadian/Acadien bus terminal is located at 150 Woodside Lane, which is here:
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do around there if you’re stuck waiting for another bus. I doubt there’s even wi-fi available. You are within walking distance to a Tim Hortons and some car dealerships. Maybe you could take a test-drive while you wait?
Getting there by public transit is kind of a pain as the service isn’t very frequent. During morning and afternoon rush hours, there’s one every half hour, other than that, you only have one bus every two hours. On Saturdays, it’s every hour in the rush hour and there’s no service on Sundays. Here’s the bus schedule, look for Woodside/Serenity. You’re much better off just taking a cab or finding a friend with a car to drop you off.
You keep hearing of more “progressive” cities getting hybrid transit buses. Maybe Fredericton should get some too? Let’s first run some numbers:
Cost of a bus: $400,000 for a regular one, $600,000 for a hybrid.
As with hybrid cars, you need to change the batteries every 6 years. As Fredericton keeps its buses until they are about 24 years old, that means 3 battery replacements (at 6, 12 and 18 years) 3x$66,000 = 200,000
That essentially makes it double the cost over the 24 year lifespan of the bus. Now, don’t forget that there would be some fuel savings. Unfortunately, under real-world testing, a hybrid bus only got 15% more mileage. (3.86 vs 4.58 mpg).
With a limited budget, that means Fredericton Transit would be able to buy fewer buses if they switched to Hybrids. To compensate, they would need to keep older buses for longer, which won’t be as fuel efficient as a newer conventional bus. They also wouldn”t be able to expand service, which would mean more cars on the road.
The truth of the matter is that hybrid transit buses are just for greenwashing and serve no actual purpose other than scoring political points.
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The Dillon Consulting Transit Report suggested a new garage for Fredericton Transit as the current one isn’t big enough and is no longer suitable. Last week, city council agreed to spend $5.2 million on a new one.
Some might think that $5.2 million is a lot, but compare it to Saint John who recently spent $23.5 million. Saint John’s will be twice the size so divide by 2 and compare to $11.75 million. That’s only 44% of the cost compared to what they built in Saint John. By building it in an industrial area, a lot of money can be saved by going cheap on the appearance.
I was disappointed with this line though: “It’s also proposing to redirect $423,000 from an anticipated bus purchase in 2010 to the construction of the transit garage.” That means the poor riders of Fredericton Transit will have to endure riding on a rickety old Mulroney era piece of junk that won’t be replaced for another year.