“In 1999 we established the office because we kind of had the situation then that we had contacts, people were interested in our technology, but it was just like nobody would give you a contract if you had no local representation. There was no way. And obviously it doesn’t work. So it was kind of a hen and egg problem with looking for the first real project and establishing a local office,” Staib says.
More Sophisticated Systems
Now, 10 years later Init has flourished in the United States, which Staib admits has been helped by changes in the transit market. I asked if he felt that technology gap had closed in the decade since he first pitched the company, and his response, “Absolutely.”
“[It is] way more sophisticated than it was 10 years ago. Looking forward technology and really evaluating technology. At that time kind of, people wanted a GPS system. Many really had no clue exactly from a more functional level and specifically highly sophisticated functions. They just wanted a GPS system that shows where their buses are on a map. It was pretty much it.
“And I guess the major drive toward a more sophisiticated technology comes through the real-time passenger information requirements that you see all over the place. Real-time passenger information, customer service information. That pretty much drives the need for more functional systems. And this is, I guess, the major change that we see.
“And then also there are agencies who operate under a very high functional operational level. Very flexible. Having very flexible operational modes they really manage, control their service. They don’t just have the buses out there. Let them run and do whatever. Have a map so they can see where the icons are and they are happy.
“No, they really want to manage service in a proactive way. And they are looking for the proper tools to do that.”
Staib says these high functionality systems are looking to make service changes not by the quarter or by the month, but much faster — by the minute.
“It doesn’t really matter from a customer perspective,” Staib says. “This is what I said, that customer orientation changed.
“The customer doesn’t really [care if] that bus comes, if that bus is half an hour late. As long as the buses come regularly. And there are many agencies right now who look into service modes like this.
“If all of a sudden the bus breaks down, bring another bus in, spread the buses out along the line, let them short turn, pull a bus out here, move them to there, all these actually. We name it CASR, Computer Added Service Restoration actions.”
Staib says this a more active way of running a system that links really good passenger information with operational control allowing them to work closely together to make better ad hoc changes. One difference in a system such as this would be the placement of street supervisors in the operations center instead of, well, on the street.
“Historically the dispatchers didn’t really know what was going on out there,” Staib says.
“So you had on-street supervisors. And these on-street guys pretty much managed the traffic. They told whatever bus, hey turn around, go back, you’re too close to the one in front of you. And all this functionality now can be done by a central dispatcher based on all this information that’s in the CAD/AVL system. So that changes.
“I know for example from a German agency, they computed the benefits of buying that system and they got their ROI just by pulling all these many people that they had out there into the control center. They didn’t need so many people anymore and could provide a better quality of service.”
Init has offices in six different countries on four different continents. With the advancement of technology in public transportation, I asked Staib if he felt that transit was becoming more similar around the world.
“Transit is surprisingly similar. There are specifics,” Staib says. Mainly due to work relations where local law comes in.
“Overall and I think it’s coming together. Ten years ago you saw a completely different style of how transit is operated [in the United States] compared to Germany, compared to Sweden, for example. But more and more the way how transit is managed it’s an international way.