It’s been the better part of a year since we wrote about the Regional Council’s Real Time Passenger Information project. GPS units are now being fitted to a growing subset of Go Wellington buses (other companies to follow soon), so that their real-time positions can be used to calculate exact “time to arrival” information for each bus stop on their routes and you’ll be able to know exactly when your bus is coming.

Late last week, the system finally went live.

The most visible parts of it will be the 190 electronic signs spread around the region’s bus stops (here’s a PDF list of the locations) – but as of now, only the Railway Station stops have the signs installed.

Signs are good, but they suffer from one flaw: you have to be physically at the bus stop to use them.

  • Before: you grew frustrated waiting at the bus stop;
  • Now: you grow frustrated waiting at the bus stop for exactly 15 minutes.

The only real difference is that you know how bad it’s going to be before you start waiting. Well… at least you know you’ll have time to nip into the dairy to get the milk and top up your transport card.

The real value is in the remote ways to access this information. Luckily, the Metlink website (and Google Transit) provides this. At work; at the pub; or perusing the shelves at the bookshop, you’re thinking maybe it’s about time to go home. You can check out the “Live Departures” on Metlink for the bus stop you want to use; it will show the next hour of buses passing it. Fifteen minutes until yours! Aha! You can finish that email / pint / regretfully put down that book, before making your way to the bus stop. No wasted time lurking on the streets for you.

Live DeparturesIf you have a smartphone, you can take this one step further. Once you search for and learn a bus stop’s ID number, you can bookmark its Live Departures page (e.g., for the Courtenay Place – Paramount stop); and from there save it to your phone’s home screen for easier access.

Sadly, the equivalent functionality for non-smartphone users – an updated TXTBus service – is scheduled for “later in the year”. We look forward to seeing when this gets a firmer timeline.

So there we have it. A new, and potentially very handy service from the Regional Council. Though trailing our sister cities around New Zealand, a little piece of the future has arrived in Wellington.