The Spanish state-owned railway system, Renfe, apparently has a new public relations offensive. Each station, including mine here in El Masnou, has a uniformed information person. They have a badge with big “i” on it, the international symbol for information. I have also seen similar personnel on trains.
The good thing is that I have actually seen them being helpful. The other day at my station I saw one of these information people showing an older person how to use a ticket in the fare gate. I also have seen people ask about the train schedule and the information person either gave them a schedule or wrote down the details.
Of course since I wrote this last week, I haven’t seen any of these people, except at Plaça Catalunya, where they have always had Renfe staff. So this must have been a one-week PR offensive.
The Barcelona Metro or TMB also has similar people in many of the downtown stations. They are on the lookout for tourists that are having trouble navigating the system. The neat thing is that they don’t sit in a booth, but rather wonder around.
While I was browsing the TMB website, I found a new service called iBus.
TMB’s iBus provides in real-time when the next bus will arrive at your stop. To do so, you only need a mobile or any device providing Internet access.
Using this service, you can be constantly informed about the bus waiting time and you'll be able to decide at every moment what transport combination is the most convenient to take.
This new service is based on a location and forecast service that connects 33 routes, 750 buses and 2.000 stops using the SAE (Operational Help System) technology.
The SAE is a tool that combines the latest innovations in the fields of IT and telecommunications to help control vehicle position via satellite, regulate vehicle circulation and improve communications from TMB’s Traffic Regulation Centre (CRT).
The system can be used to determine the real situation of the vehicles connected to it from a central control area, find them using GPS, and help complete information on the frequency with which they arrive at established bus stops. The bus driver also receives this information on a screen located on the control panel of the bus.
This type of new technology allows TMB to transmit information to the stops about the time it will take for the next bus on any line to arrive. I have been at bus stops that have an automated sign that indicates how many minutes until the next bus arrives.
The Metro stations have automated signs that indicate how many minutes and seconds until the next train arrives at the station. I have had visitors complain that sometimes the train arrives a few seconds before the predicted time.
AC Transit has a similar service called NextBus in the East Bay where I used to live. In contrast, this service only covers 3 bus lines. It doesn’t mention mobile access, but that probably isn’t a problem.
You have read my rants before about public transit in the Bay Area compared to Barcelona. When browsing the AC Transit website, I found a link to TransLink.
TransLink is the future of transit. [My emphasis.] When you switch to a TransLink card, there's no more fumbling for change, losing paper transfers, or juggling passes or tickets from one or more transit agencies.
Compare that to the ATM with its Integrated Fare System which makes it possible to use the different modes of transport (Metro, bus, tram, FGC and Renfe) in the same journey within the Barcelona Metropolitan Region. “In the same journey” means that it counts as a single ride. No transfers needed. The consortium includes both public and private companies. This has been in operation since 2001 while “TransLink is the future of transit” in the Bay Area.
The Barcelona Metropolitan Region comprises a total of 164 municipalities,
spans a surface area of 3,237 km2 (1,250 sq.similar miles), and has a population of 4.4 million inhabitants (2001), divided into 6 comarcas (counties). So you can see that demographically the Barcelona Metropolitan Region is similar to the Bay Area.