Transportation

HSR Buses to Get New Radios, Stop Calls

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 24, 2009

In July 2007, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to call out stops on all its surface routes after hearing a case by David Lepofsky, a blind lawyer who uses transit and argued that not calling the stops violated his rights.

This was the second such case. Two years previously, Lepofsky had successfully argued for the same service on subways, but the TTC had stubbornly refused to extend the stop calls to its surface routes without a second case.

Amazingly, the HSR argued at the time that the OHRT decision was not binding and would not apply to Hamilton transit.

However, the Ontario Human Rights Commission now requires that all public transit providers announce all transit stops. As a result, the HSR will install an automated system to call stops as part of a planned radio system upgrade this year.

With council voting to approve an additional $530,000 to expand the scope of the investment, the new system [PDF link] will cost $3.7 million to install and be paid out of the federal gas tax transfer.

It will include: new radio systems for fleet vehicles to communicate with central dispatching; a second transmitter to maintain radio contact even if one transmitter fails; fully automated audio and visual stop announcements; and automated vehicle location via GPS.

Possible future enhancements could include a web-based API with realtime data on vehicle location so transit users can see exactly where their bus is.

The existing radio system was installed in 1982, has far outlived its design life, and has failed four times since last Christmas.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By omro (registered) | Posted March 24, 2009 at 17:02:54

Most bus stops in UK cities have an LED indicator board that says roughly how long the next bus is going to be. That would be a very useful byproduct of this upgrade. Is that planned too?

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By Melville (anonymous) | Posted March 24, 2009 at 23:38:00

How about they get the stop times right on their phone check for once? Twice this past month I've had to call in about a bus not arriving by 15 minutes after the time listed in phonecheck, only to find out from their operator that those times are incorrect.

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By bugbear (anonymous) | Posted March 25, 2009 at 16:48:07

It's not really accurate to say that "the Ontario Human Rights Commission now requires that all public transit providers announce all transit stops. As a result, the HSR will install an automated system to call stops as part of a planned radio system upgrade this year."

The OHRC doesn't have general jurisdiction like this. If someone brought a complaint against the HSR, then obviously the HRTO would rule against the HSR on the basis of its prior decision against the TTC (even though officially it isn't bound by its prior decisions). This is why the HSR has changed its policy - to avoid the possibility of litigation which it knows it would probably lose, not because the OHRC "requires" that it do so. Legally speaking, the HSR was indeed right to argue that the HTRO ruling against the TTC was not binding upon it per se. That being said, the OHRC did communicate with transit providers across the province, successfully persuading many of them to adopt the announcement policy which was forced upon the TTC by the HRTO. The OHRC could not simply have compelled them to adopt such a policy, however. It just doesn't have that sort of jurisdiction.

The OHRC really only investigates complaints, enforces the Code as it stands, and makes public policy recommendations to the legislature. It doesn't make rulings itself, so the Spec article was slightly off on this point as well. The changes to the DARTS system were actually the result of a settlement between the City and various complainants, with the OHRC simply serving as mediator.

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By omro (registered) | Posted March 26, 2009 at 19:13:32

Even if it weren't a Human Rights issue, having someone call out the stops is actually very helpful.

Two quick examples.

It helps tourists or visitors know where they are without having to ask.

It helps people who are reading a book or snoozing, and not really paying attention to their surroundings, to be reminded that they are at approaching their stop.

As long as they aren't too loud and intrusive, as sometimes these announcements can be on the London Underground, it's definitely a step in the right direction.

I for one look forward to the point where I can stand at a bus stop, see an indicator board telling me the next bus is 2 minutes away and use my phone's internet connection to see the bus trundling towards me via it's GPS tracker.

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