Passenger information is information provided to public transport users about the nature and state of a public transport service, though visual, voice or touchable media. A distinction can be drawn between:
- Static or Planned information, which changes only slowly and is typically used for journey planning prior to departure (stations and stops, routes, service numbers, times, trip durations, fares, etc.)
- Real time information, which changes continuously as a result of real-world events and is typically used during the course of a journey (primarily how close the service is running to time and when it is due at a stop, but also incidents that affect service operations, platform changes etc.).
Static information is made available traditionally in printed form though route network maps, timetable booklets, name signs and/or pictograms at stations and stops, etc. This information is also available through dedicated national and local telephone services. In many areas, static information is now being made available electronically through websites or over mobile phone services (typically via SMS).
Information is increasingly provided in audio form as well, both on vehicles and at stops. Public address systems, usually but not always automated, will typically give next service announcements at stations and next stop announcement onboard vehicles.
Real time information is an advance on this, which recognises the fact that public transport services do not always operate exactly according to the published timetable. By providing real time information to travellers, they are better able to conduct their journey confidently, including taking any necessary steps in the event of delays. This helps to encourage greater use of public transport, which for many countries is a political goal.
Real time information is provided over specialist passenger information systems.
Issues with passenger information
There are four principal considerations for the provision of passenger information (static or real time):
- Data availability. Information can only be provided where it is available, and collecting information can be resource intensive. Also, there may be difficulties in one organisation (say an operator) allowing other organisations to access its information.
- Data accuracy. Collecting information is error-prone, particularly when it is passed between systems manually. Also, prediction algorithms are not perfect, and real-time announcements may be in error for this reason.
- Getting information to the passenger. A variety of dissemination mechanisms may be used, but it is not always easy to ensure that the correct information reaches the passenger when it is most needed. Apart from the obvious economic considerations, information overload must be avoided.
- Latency or Response time. Information provision must react quickly to a passenger request or a real-world update. There is little point in announcing a service three minutes after it has departed.
- Dynamic passenger information
- Transmodel, CEN European Reference Data Model
- Real Time Information Group (RTIG), UK organisation
- Identification of Fixed Objects in Public Transport (IFOPT)
- Service Interface for Real Time Information (SIRI)
- Intermodal journey planner
- IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Society