The voice on the bus

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B.C. Transit in Greater Victoria has been rolling out automated street announcing on its buses, pushed to do so by a human rights complaint from people with vision problems and by its unionized drivers, who didn’t want to announce every stop themselves.

I encountered the announcing for the first time in the last few days on Route 6. Some observations:

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The voice is clear and familiar — it’s the default voice on many GPS devices.

It announces pretty much every major cross street, not bus stops. That’s because B.C. Transit bought a generic navigation device, rather than pay extra sums for something that’s customized to announce just stops.

The pronunciations can be funky. Its version of “Saanich” as in Saanich Road had passengers giggling.

Abbreviations for Road, Drive and Street are correctly rendered, but the voice has trouble with Place, pronouncing it P.L.

It’s a little confusing when there are several streets in close proximity, and the voice quickly rattles them off, one after the other, often with contorted pronunciations.

The voice has been significantly clearer on Victoria buses than on Metro Vancouver buses, without being too loud.

The voice sometimes waits until it is nearly past a street before it announces it. This caused me to almost miss a stop one day when I decided to rely on the voice, instead of watching out the window.

Having the voice rabbiting on constantly is not nearly as irritating as I imagined it could be. It easily becomes background noise when it’s not needed. Its work is highly useful at night, when I lose track of where I am, especially if I have been reading and not paying attention to my journey, which is quite often.

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