If you keep your public informed, it makes everybody's job easier. That's a sentiment echoed by the various companies that provide solutions to help get information out to your riders; the information riders need, when they need it and where they need it.
Jennille Logan, account manager with ACS says, "Agencies provide real-time information to their riders, which helps increase new riders, retain riders and reduce the anxiety for riders." She adds, "If local, commuter and visiting riders feel comfrotable utilizing a system and find it time-effective, reliable and quicker than using single-person vehicles, it will not only increase riders, but assist in reducing heavy traffic on major roadways.
"The ACS-TMS SmartTraveler Plus product suite consists of multiple ways for riders to access real-time information," says Logan. "It is a Web product that allows agencies to customize a Web page for their riders. Riders can plan a trip, be notified through email or text message of their vehicle arrival times, see important transit messages and can search for their bus or bus stop."
Avail Technologies works primarily with small to mid-sized companies, says Marketing Manager Troy Whitesel. And he says it's even more critical for them to have good information for the riders. If the bus only comes to the stop once every hour, riders don't want to be left standing outside in the cold or wet weather.
When riders see from their desk in the office that the bus is going to be 15 minutes late, that's 15 more minutes to work, or to get coffee or to just stay indoors. That also spares the questioning, "Did the bus come early and I missed it?"
Taking things a step further, Continental Public Transit Solutions is working with Booz Allen, the FTA and Chicago's Pace transit agency on its Transit Operations Decision Support System (TODSS), a prototype software that provides real-time data of events and prioritizes necessary responses for those. It organizes the information the agency receives and provides procedures based on standards set up by the agency. The TODSS system is available to agencies as the TransitMaster IDS (Intelligent Decision Support).
Arjan van Andel, director of sales North America with Continental, mentions examples of integrating multiple systems. The communication can be hooked up between all modes, including a city's highway management system. It's not only bus or only train, it's an integration of all information. An example he talks about in Europe also integrates various modes to a higher level.
"They provide connection information already in the bus," van Andel says. So when you're on the bus and you're going to the station to catch a train, you get all the information you need. ?Before you come to the train station in the bus, the bus will have a screen inside and it will show you at what times and what platforms the train will leave and it will show everything in real time."
Using Your Data
The way to providing more -- and better -- information for the rider is the better use of data. Agencies report being inundated with insurmountable amounts of data.
Suppliers focus on how to meet the two challenges: making it easy to utilize the data and providing the most accurate data. They agree that this is an integral part of what they need to provide for the agencies.
According to Whitesel, the biggest thing Doresy Houtz, president of Avail Technologies, tells people is that the companies are installing solutions that gather tons of data on a daily basis, but if you don't have the means to look at that data, than what is that solution really giving you?
"We see that with our own customers, they are getting more data than they ever expected to see," van Andel with Continental, also says.
"ACS provides data to agencies that will assist their agencies, not cripple them with useless information that will not support their No. 1 goal -- providing excellent service for their riders," states Logan. "The OrbCAD CAD/AVL system provides real-time information and integrates with agencies' APC, scheduling and other important tools that help agencies conduct business daily."