SkyTrain implements early warning signage

SkyTrain is an elevated dual track light rail transit system utilising fully automated trains that operate within Metro Vancouver, British Columbia. The line is operated by BCRTC under contract from TransLink, the regional government transportation agency. SkyTrain runs 49.5 km (of track to make it the longest automated light rapid transit system in the world. In total there are 33 stations on the system encompassing two lines: the Expo Line opened in 1986 and the Millennium Line opened in 2002.

Since SkyTrain’s inception the system has had periodic service disruptions due to medical emergencies, inclement weather and other issues. The BCRTC has always relied on sandwich boards and paper at station entrances to inform passengers of outages or issues with the system. In most cases passengers don’t notice the messaging and purchase tickets, and then have lengthy waits on the station platform; if they board a train it may pass right past their station because it’s closed. To solve this problem many ideas were discussed but the best idea was to use large LCD panels and digital signage software to distribute messaging to station entrances to ensure passengers are informed of any issues along the SkyTrain line.

The Station Entrance Emergency Information Panels (SEEIP) project was initiated to bring messaging to passengers before they purchase tickets; LCD panels located at station entrances inform passengers of any problems that could delay travel time. Best Buy Commercial Canada and iMediaT Digital (formerly bob loblaw Digital Media) were awarded the contract to implement the pilot SEEIP system at five stations along both SkyTrain Lines. The system was designed by iMediaT Digital and all professional LCD panel, enclosure and power/data cable installations were managed by Best Buy Commercial Canada and their subsidiary Geek Squad International.

iMediaT Digital designed a messaging system around the PADS Professional software from Net Display Systems because PADS offered the industry’s best option for data integration with SQL server and existing BCRTC data sources. The network infrastructure was designed using baluns; a send/receive hardware technology that carries high definition video, audio and RS232 signals over long distances using fibre optic cable connected between a digital signage player PC and an LCD panel. The PCs are networked back to a server at the main operations centre which drives the system using the PADS software and SQL server.

iMediaT Digital also developed a browser based interface to assist Field Operations staff to create or edit emergency, amber alert, and general information messages. The system enables staff to direct custom messaging to a single screen or any combination of screens throughout the system. During normal operation content has been designed to inform passengers of SkyTrain rules, etiquette, interesting facts, and train tips.

Future system plans include updates using mobile phones, screen time to non-profit organisations to promote campaigns, ‘next’ train time information, passenger management during the 2010 Olympics, and many other ideas.

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