Automated Interior Stop Announcements
Objective 2: Customer Satisfaction
Transit rider onboard survey
An onboard survey of riders of the demonstration coaches was conducted in December 2001 by King County Metro staff and a consultant to obtain riders' feedback on the automated exterior route and destination announcement, automated interior stop annunciation and automated interior sign functions. Of particular interest was the reaction of regular riders to the automated announcement features. The survey was fielded on 25 Smart Bus demonstration trips. Four hundred seventy-nine completed surveys were collected, yielding a 69.7 percent response rate. The survey respondents tended to be regular riders, and were riding their usual route.
Automated interior stop announcements: The following are survey results related to the interior stop announcements function. The complete onboard survey report is available in the Appendix.
- The vast majority (89 percent) of survey respondents rated the interior stop announcements as very or somewhat helpful, with over half of respondents (60 percent) rating the functions as very helpful.
- While most (87 percent) of respondents said the announcements of major stops and transfer points were made at the right time, 11 percent of respondents said the announcements came "too late," indicating an issue with the timing of the announcements.
- The interior announcements were rated as accurate by 82 percent of the respondents. Sixteen percent of respondents indicated they didn't know whether the information was accurate.
- Preferred Smart Bus Feature: When respondents were asked for their preference if only one of the Smart Bus features could be added, the interior stop announcements were rated as third among five possible options, selected by 20 percent of respondents.
ADA Rider Discussion
In November 2001, Sound Transit staff conducted a facilitated discussion with Sound Transits Citizen's Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Deaf-Blind Workgroup. Eight participants with mobility, hearing and/or vision disabilities were provided with a demonstration of the Smart Bus signage and announcement functions to obtain their feedback and suggested improvements for the functions. A summary of the discussion provided by Sound Transit's evaluation consultant may be found in the Appendix of this report.
- Overall, discussion participants appeared satisfied with the interior stop announcements. Most participants rated the clarity, volume, and ability to hear the announcements over ambient noise, as good.
Objective 3: Transit Operator Feedback
A debriefing session was held on January 23, 2002 with transit operators who had operated Smart Bus demonstration coaches. The purpose of the session was to assess operator satisfaction with the Smart Bus demonstration functions and obtain operators' recommendations for a potential system wide implementation of the smart bus onboard equipment. KCM Research and Management Information staff facilitated the session. Fourteen Central Base transit operators participated in the session: nine full-time transit operators and five part-time transit operators. A discussion summary may be found in the Appendix.
- Most discussion participants liked the interior stop announcement function and stated it should be included in a smart bus system wide procurement. Some participants noted the function benefited operators by allowing them to focus on driving and gave them "one less thing to worry about."
- Participants noted that most of their passengers liked the stop announcements. Several operators received positive feedback from people with disabilities.
- Participants stated the function generally worked well, noting a few instances where the wrong announcement was made by the system, or no announcement was made.
- Some participants noted instances of advanced and delayed announcements, depending on the coach's speed and placement of stops. Some stop announcements were perceived as being made as the coach passed the stop, or after the coach passed the stop.
- Participants had varied opinions on the female voice used to announce stops in the demonstration. Some participants thought the voice was fine, others thought it was difficult to hear or not "assertive" enough.
Objective 4: Issues and Recommendations for Implementation
Based on feedback from transit operators and the customer survey, the timing of stop announcements will need to be refined. The demonstration stop announcements were triggered 300 feet in advance of the stop, later adjusted to 400 feet. The 300-foot setting was problematic when the coach was traveling at a rapid speed, such as on the freeway, where the announcement was made too late. Transit operators suggested customizing the timing of announcements for each route, or that announcements should be made immediately after the doors close.
Other suggestions from transit operators included:
- Shortening the announcements, for example "California and Alaska" instead of "California Avenue Southwest and Southwest Alaska Street."
- Eliminating the "beep" the system makes prior to an announcement. Discussion participants noted instances where they mistook the beep for the stop requested bell, and inadvertently pulled into a stop when no stop was requested.
- Adding a "next stop will be an express stop" announcement for express trips;
- Using a variety of different types of voices to make the announcements.
Technical Staff Debriefing
At the completion of the demonstration project, a discussion was conducted with a group of KCM technical staff to identify technical lessons learned and implementation issues raised by the demonstration. A discussion summary may be found in the Appendix.
- The group identified transit operator training issues related to the stop annunciation function implementation including:
- What does the system consider as off route operation and how will the system behave?
- By what process will transit operators report errors in stop announcements?