Public transport in Sydney is going through a complete re-vamp, with “The Hop” becoming the universal brand for public transport. This is an essential part of creating a system that is seen as a complete and unified public transport network, rather than one which is just a collection of networks (rail, ferry, various bus operators, etc) cobbled together. It also presents an opportunity to create information for the passenger (or “customers” as the government now insists on calling them) that is prepared in a way that is most logical and useful from their perspective.
The introduction of real time data for transport apps (first for buses, then later for trains) is a definite improvement. Providing passenger information displays (PIDs) on the Sydney Trains network in locations other than on the platforms or next to the ticket gates is another good move. Two examples of the latter include the PIDs that were put into the Westfield food court adjoining Parramatta train station many years ago (see image above), allowing passengers to see when the next train arrives before beginning a walk to the platform which could take a number of minutes; while a more recent installation of PIDs near the street entrance of the shopping arcade that leads into Wynyard Station (see image below) tell passengers when the next train to a particular station arrives and to which platform, removing the need for them to check all upcoming trains to work out which one will get them to their destination first.
This final example is actually a step back in time to the 1990s, when PIDs were often organised in this way. At major stations, passengers could look up their station from an alphabetically ordered list to see which train would get them to that destination fastest. This is important, as the quickest journey may not simply be the next train to arrive, such as if a subsequent train is an express that overtakes the earlier train.
Today this system of communicating information is all but gone. Even the example above from Wynyard isn’t as straightforward and logical as first appears. Rather than ordering stations in an easy to look up manner, it orders them in chronological order of soon to arrive trains. It also only lists major stations.
On top of this, the process of looking up train services by line has been complicated by the re-naming of lines to numbers (T1, T2, T3, etc). Someone who wants to reach Westmead from Central, for example, should take a train on the Western Line (T1). But there are 3 different PIDs for T1 (see image above), and each of them lists all the line names (Western/Northern/North Shore), rather than the more logical choice of labelling them T1 – North Shore/Northern (left), T1 – Western (middle), T1 – Northern (right). This would allow the passenger to focus on the middle PID to find when the next train to Westmead is and which station they need to go to. Given that this very information is available a short walk from where these PIDs are (see image below), giving this information in that format should not be a difficult thing to achieve.
Even better, Transport for NSW could return to providing information to passengers by first asking them where they want to go, then telling them the best way of getting there. This would be a big improvement of the current system where the passenger must also work out how to reach their destination, then look at the relevant PID and wait for all the stations to scroll along before determining when and where to go for their next train.