Streetcar Real Time App Coming “As Quickly As Possible”
City promises real time data for The Hop which was supposed to launch in December.
If you have used The Hop for anything more than a joy ride you have likely walked to a platform and checked the posted schedule for the next vehicle. If you’re more tech-savvy, you may have used the PDF schedule posted on the system’s website before stepping outside.
Both options rely on the vehicles staying on schedule and provide limited assurance that a vehicle is actually coming. Real-time location data for vehicles will provide certainty and drastically increase the utility of the 2.1-mile long route.
When the system launched on November 2nd, officials said real-time vehicle location data was coming in December. It’s now January and city officials have yet to announce a date for the launch of the service.
“Providing real-time information via an app to our passengers is a top priority of ours and we’re in the process of implementing the technology on board the vehicles,” said Department of Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske in response to a question from Urban Milwaukee. “While we don’t have an exact date for when we can roll it out publicly, we’re working diligently to make that service available as quickly as possible.”
The delay hasn’t been noticeable given the holiday season, mild winter and a large number of riders that can be found on the vehicles taking a round trip. But multiple readers have now contacted Urban Milwaukee asking about the status of the real-time system.
Real-time data doesn’t reduce the time between vehicles (approximately 15 minutes currently), but it provides certainty to riders. Certainty on when to go to a stop, certainty on how long they’ll have to wait in the cold, rain or snow and certainty that their ride is coming.
It also can make the wait feel shorter. Multiple studies have found that riders perceive waits as taking much longer — from 20 to 400 percent longer! — without real-time data. A 2016 study found “real-time information alone reduces a transit user’s perception of waiting time almost as much as both a bench and a shelter.” Countdown clocks at stations were found to be an asset to riders, but city officials have yet to announce if such a thing would be added to Milwaukee’s system.
The availability of real-time data will also provide substantially added utility to the system given its limited length. For all but the longest rides, riders currently could come close to walking their trip in the same amount of time if they had to wait 15 minutes first for a streetcar. Real-time data should eliminate that perception by allowing accurate trip planning and allowing the system to serve as a pedestrian accelerator.
The Milwaukee County Transit System has provided real-time data to bus riders since 2014. The data, which can be found in a number of third-party smartphone applications, has been integrated into the system’s fast-growing ticketing app.
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For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
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