As the service had just been introduced there were two extra staff on board to hand out pamphlets and explain the service. The buses are claimed to carry more people that a standard bus, but looked the same to me. They are fitted with an electronic display showing the next stop and an automatic voice announcement. The bus I was on is a single unit, but articulated ones are also being used.
The pamphlet and the bus stop signs are an improvement on previous STA bus information. The metro style maps are easy to understand and to work out where to change to other transport. The roadside signs lack a countdown timer to tell you when the next bus is leaving, but the on-board staff explained that these signs are planned.
The buses do not accept cash and all tickets must be purchased before boarding. This will cause some inconvenience but greatly reduces bus loading time. It is also safer than the arrangement in Melbourne with trams (and buses in Thessaloniki), where patrons have to attempt to buy a ticket from a machine on-board a moving vehicle. There are newsagents and other vendors selling tickets near most bus stops.
The Metrobus is a cost effective and realistic answer to some of Sydney's transport problems, unlike the unworkable "North West Metro". However, there is a danger the Metrobus trial will fail due to a lack of investment. Some areas where it could be improved are:
- Usable Web Site: Sydney Buses provide a minimum of information about the service on the web in a difficult to read format. Instead of large, slow to download and hard to read PDF documents, the Brochure, Route Map, Download the TravelTen calculator should be provided in the form of web pages accessible by the disabled and usable on a mobile phone. The Wikipedia entry for the service provides better information than the official government web site.
- Next bus electronic sign: Each stop needs an electronic sign counting down to when the next bus leaves. These signs need to provide an accurate estimate. When I tried the Perth "Cat" system, the signs were so inaccurate as to be useless and discouraged patronage, rather than helping it. STA should invest in a reliable system which uses real time displays with wireless links to a GPS reporting bus. The signs could be solar powered in most cases.
- Next Bus Cafe: Electronic signs could be installed in cafes near the stops and the the staff encouraged to help patrons with bus information.
- Better road access: While the Metrobuses are new and have a good ride, the service suffers from the poor Sydney roads. The NSW government should repair the road surface along the bus lane for the Metrobus route to improve the ride and speed up the service. Bus priority traffic lights would further improve the service. Also the buses could be equipped with with traffic cameras, linked to the RTA Transport Management Centre, with a button for the driver to report a traffic problem. The RTA central controllers could then see and act on problems effecting the buses. An additional option would be to fit the buses out with mobile traffic infringement cameras, so that vehicles parked in bus stops and otherwise impeding the service could be issued with fines immediately.
- Electronic tickets: Sydney needs a workable electronic ticketing system, such as the Akbil system used by Istanbul Public Transport. Sydney has abandoned one electronic ticket system (Tcard) and is planning to install another system which will not work. Sydney needs to rationalise its fare structure before an electronic ticketing system will be workable. One option would be to propose the Australian Government fund a national standardised system and have it piloted on the Sydney Metrobus.
From: Metrobus, Wikipedia, 2008