Wednesday morning’s commute for me was one of those made easier via good quality real-time information.
My usual train was cancelled. I knew this before I left the house thanks to checking the PTV app.
The app also told me that other trains were delayed. It was going to be a messy commute. Bleugh.
Sometimes in morning peak when there is a cancellation, you can backtrack from Bentleigh to Moorabbin and pick up an express train that gets you into the City sooner than if you just waited at Bentleigh. (It’s a trick that probably applies at a few other places on the network, and incurs no fare penalty now that Zone 1+2 costs the same as Zone 1.)
The app lets you check departures at any station. Checking Moorabbin told me that no, this trickery wasn’t going to help today.
At Bentleigh station the screens and announcements confirmed the delays.
The next train arrived – heavily delayed, and crowded as expected. Completely packed? No. But with another six stops before the City (not served by other trains) it’s not hard to predict that there were sardine times ahead.
Crucially – the screens on the platform confirmed what the announcements were saying: another train was 4 minutes behind it.
Some of us on the platform used this information to decide to wait and catch the following train, which was near-empty as it had just started its trip. Scored a seat! Much better than being in a crush-loaded train a few minutes earlier.
This kind of real-time information can make a big difference to your trip. So why isn’t it provided more widely?
The good news is: there’s progress. The design seen last year at some stations is now appearing at more locations – recently at Parkdale, Moorabbin, Balaclava, Malvern, some of the platforms at Caulfield, and no doubt others.
The app is helpful too of course – for trams and buses as well. And apart from the official PTV app, a few others have real-time departure information fed from the same API.
But even if you’re not inclined to check an app, hopefully the improved screens are coming to your station soon!
Good information can’t fix delays or undo cancellations, but it can help passengers make the most of a bad situation.