Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dunedin - Ritchies using high-tech bus driver training system

Tranzwatching new bus tech in Dunedin, Te Wai Pounamu, New Zealand

One of the major differences between light rail and buses is the degree of freedom which the driver/operator has to drive badly. The smoothness of trams and their capacity to be operated at excessive speed or in an erratic and uncomfortable manner exists, but in general factors such as lurching are prevented by the rails themself.

Among the many gaps closing between buses and trams/light rail is journey quality. Some of the biggest firms such as Stagecoach in the UK are now using monitors that show a red indicator light (normally green) if a bus is accelerated or decelerated too fast, or lurches too wildly, on a corner.

These monitors in the first instance help drivers learn to drive within the parameters comfortable to passengers - in the second instance, they record the drivers actions so if complaints arise management can correlate these or in general identify and remove those who insist on driving buses in a rough and unpleasant manner. It is a huge step towards getting consistent professional standards,  bad drivers do enormous damage to public perception and discourage patronage, not least at the cost of job security and potential job status and value in negotiations for wages. They also use a lot more fuel, which of course is another major employer incentive to upgrade standards of driving.

New Zealand's biggest bus company Ritchies has imported a $90,000 system to train drivers to understand how to delivery to quality journeys for passengers.

According to a report on the Otago Daily Times,  Ritchies national training manager John Harvey, of Auckland, is in Dunedin this week to train a group of nine new drivers using the computer video system - the "only one of its kind in New Zealand".  

The $90,000 technology is a portable system, which uses video cameras and sensors to observe drivers, as a GPS unit records the route driven and the acceleration, braking, and side-to-side movement of the bus.

NZ in Tranzit Comment - The next step in this process of up-grading bus journeys, in my mind,  is that Councils operate testing equipment in a bus, evaluating each street for roading surface, to identify and modify or remove bumps and rupures that significantly effect bus passengers. Buses often react quite different from cars, even with good suspension, particularly the sideways wobble factor, and on my own travels I have noted consistent rough points on routes** that are not addressed.

[i.e before September 4th 2010 and the first of many earthquakes in our city; of course bump hunting equipment would be rather ironic/absurd in Christchurch at the present time, where 10km an hour is often the only comfortable speed for buses traveling over countless sections of earthquake ruptured roading]

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