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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Smart phone real-time bus locator apps are coming—really, this time

Halifax council approves $7.5 million in transit technology upgrades.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 7:40 AM

click to enlarge bus2.jpg
Ten years and untold millions of dollars after it was first envisioned, it looks like Metro Transit will finally have a rider-friendly Go Time system. Halifax council Tuesday approved $5.9 million for an “Automated Vehicle Location /Computer Aided Dispatch” system for buses, to be purchased from Trapeze Software Group , a Mississauga company

Metro Transit will entirely scrap its existing, and not very helpful, OnRoute AVL/CAD system, as well as the existing “Interactive Voice Response” system—the recorded telephone voice that tells riders when the next two scheduled buses will supposedly arrive at a particular stop.

From a rider standpoint, once installed—in about two years, fully 10 years after the OnRoute system was installed in 2006—the new system will basically have the capabilities of an iphone: it will provide real-time locations for buses, text messaging capabilities between drivers and management and mapping systems. But in actuality, the system to be installed on the buses is much more complicated than those employed by a typical resident planning a car trip to Moncton. The bus system includes management interfaces to track bus and driver performance, record mishaps and “incidents,” and will be be able to handle future technology upgrades like the fare boxes and automated stop announcements.

Council additionally approved a tender award valued at $1.6 million to Trapeze, which will install the automated stop announcements after the AVL/CAD is successfully installed. These should be installed in about three years.

What does this mean for the typical rider? When the AVL/CAD system is up and running, riders will be able to see where their buses are in real time, and plan appropriately—no more waiting senselessly in an ice storm for a bus that won’t come for 20 minutes. The bones of the system will be open enough that anyone with the know-how can create their own apps for it, so expect a profusion of transit apps. After the automated stop technology is installed, an electronic sign at the front of the bus and a recorded voice over loud speakers will alert riders to the next stop.

In addition to the hardware and software services purchases approved Tuesday, council also approved a $2.35 million contract with Barrington Consulting to manage the technology upgrades at Metro Transit. The AVL/CAD and automated stop announcement systems are part of 33 technological improvements estimated to cost $35 million over the next three years. The improvements are financed through the 25-cent fare box increase implemented in the fall.

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