BC Transit’s announcement that it plans to install an automated voice annunciation device on every bus in the Victoria Regional Transit System likely came as a welcome relief to many who were finding it a challenge to move around the city with confidence.
Residents with vision challenges had been calling for some time for a system that alerts them to the approaching bus stops. In its initial response, Transit tried to insist its drivers begin calling out stops as they drove. For their part, the drivers protested, citing the need to focus fully on their most important task: driving.
Installation of the Trekker Breeze system will occur in stages, with 25 buses equipped in August to conduct final road tests. The rest of the fleet will be outfitted beginning in September.
A joint Unifor 333 / BC Transit committee had been formed to investigate technological solutions. According to the committee, the Trekker Breeze provides a cost-effective, readily available and proven voice annunciation product that is used by visually impaired persons around the world.
“This product supports the needs of our visually impaired customers and our operators while also respecting taxpayers,” said Manuel Achadinha, President and CEO of BC Transit. “I thank the Canadian Federation of the Blind and Unifor 333 for working with us to find a cost-effective product.”
Of course, those with vision challenges aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the system. Tourists, newcomers to the city and even longtime residents who venture to an unfamiliar part of our growing city will all find the automated system useful.
And certainly as the community also battles the very serious issue of distracted driving, asking drivers who already negotiate roads shared with other drivers, cyclists, skateboarders, pedestrians and others – all while monitoring what’s happening behind them on their bus – to add another task seems incongruous.
The question, really, is why did it take so long to arrive at this position? Travellers to many other parts of the world are familiar with automated systems announcing coming transit stops.
It seems like this decision, which makes the most sense for everyone, should have been the one arrived at in the beginning.