Shared from the 2017-01-16 Telegraph-Journal eEdition

Voice systems installed on buses

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Ian MacKinnon, the CEO of the Saint John Transit and Parking Commission, said all city buses will be equipped with an Audio Announcement System to make the bus more accesible for people that are vsually impaired. The technology will be tested on nine routes to begin. Photo: telegraPh-Journal archive

SAINT JOHN • The Saint John Transit and Parking Commission is making its transit buses more accessible for city residents by installing an automated voice announcement system.

Ian MacKinnon, the CEO of the transit commission, said the Automated Voice Announcement system is being added to all 43 buses in the city’s fleet. The technology will make audio announcements when the bus reaches the next stop in the bus route, which will help visually impaired people find their stop. It will display LED visual representation for the next stop as well.

To start, the system is going to be tested on Routes 1-8 and 31, he said.

“The reason we picked 1-8 and 31 is because it encompasses our main line. We did it in a scaled fashion meaning we’re kind of piloting this first batch,” he said.

“We’re only making it live for stops on those routes for now just to make sure that we have our processes and logistics in place of this implementation.”

After about a month of the pilot stage, then all of the buses will be using the AVA system.

MacKinnon said he is excited to roll out the accessible technology.

“This was something that came to light over the past several years and it’s something we take very seriously making sure all of our buses are made accessible,” he said.

“We’ll move very quickly to make this a complete project shortly after the success of this initial roll-out.”

The software comes from a company called Next Bus and cost $400,000. The system was purchased using money allotted by council in the 2015 capital budget.

“Over the course of time, the bus technology has developed and one of the key criteria for buses is fully accessible buses.”

Ardell Wills has been using city transit for over 20 years. She said she has seen many people get on the bus with impairments, both physical and visual. She said the addition of the AVA system will benefit all citizens.

“I think it’s a good idea,” she said.

“People need to get around. Happy people means happy communities.”

Rhonda Rentz recently moved to Saint John from Thunder Bay, Ont. She said she is happy to see that the bus is able to meet the needs of all its passengers.

“I think it’s a good idea for them to be all-inclusive for everybody.”

MacKinnon said the Saint John Transit and Parking Commission submitted a request for proposal for 12 new transit buses. Each bus would be fully accessible with the AVA system and a built-in passenger counter to help track ridership. He said the commission is still waiting to hear the results of its request.

“Once we purchase these buses and decommission the older style buses, then the entire fleet will be fully accessible so we’re all really excited about that.”

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