Blind man happy with upgrades to Saskatoon buses

For the past few years Robin East has been asking the City of Saskatoon to implement an effective voice announcement system to notify visually impaired people. The old system saw bus drivers call out the stop.

City is implementing new Intelligent Transit Systems on 120 city buses

The City of Saskatoon plans to have 120 city buses equipped with Intelligent Transit Systems (ITS) by June 2014.

The new automated systems will alert passengers to the location of each bus stop.

The change is something Robin East, Chair of the city's Accessibility Advisory Committee, said he has been asking the city for, for three or four years.

East, who is blind, often travels on city transit.

In 2013, the city mandated that bus drivers call out each stop along their route. But East said that didn't work.

"My expectation is that they should simply do their job," East told CBC News. "It's like turning on the signal light when they have to turn to a different lane, or turn a corner, or stopping at a red light — calling out the bus stops when they're supposed to."

Bob Howe, Director of Saskatoon transit, told CBC News the city believes changes to the current system are needed and this is why they are investing $1.7 million in the new ITS upgrades for all new buses.

Howe said the changes will benefit everyone, not just visually impaired people.

"We're getting people moving here from all over the world," Howe said. "By having major intersections called out, bus stops called out, it will certainly help those who use transit on a regular basis get to know the city much faster."

Currently, Saskatoon Transit is ironing out the technical glitches with the ITS upgrades through a pilot project involving 30 buses from the fleet.

Pending any major problems, the new automated buses should be on the roads this spring. 

A change that can't come soon enough for Robin East.

"There's no reason why this system shouldn't work and there's no reason why the bus drivers shouldn't be calling out the stops," East stated.