“Currently, the TPIS combines data, text and graphics and uses scheduled and real-time GPS data to track a train’s location and be able to distribute that within the TPIS network and also show it on a Google map,” Rivera notes.
TPIS communications is represented by its Vantage Server Software (VSS), which operates in a client-server configuration. Here the content server is composed of various intelligent system displays, redundant database servers and networking equipment all configured into the transit agency’s rail or bus routes. The server software is platform independent and runs on virtually any operating system from Windows to Linux. Similarly, VSS can function with a variety of relational databases including Microsoft SQL, MySQL and Oracle. Each TPIS set up is interconnected depending on station locales with fiber optic, wireless, LAN, WAN or cellular networks.
As passengers pass through a typical transit station, there are two major locales for TPIS installations; the mezzanine where the platform entrance is located and the station platform. The mezzanine-based is represented by TPIS monitors which present general information, such as the location of the ticket booths and ticket prices.
A further extension of TPIS is TransitVUE’s Interactive Passenger Information Kiosk. The IPIK is essentially a touch-screen display attached next to a ticket vending machine that provides passengers background information on transit ticket costs, how to purchase those tickets and vehicle transfer info, as well. The kiosk is also able to recommend travel routes if a passenger types in both their start point and their end point.
TransitVUE has also extended TPIS as an on-board LRV display setup as well. This component is composed of an LCD display presenting passengers with on-board information on station location, arrival/departure, safety messages and places of interest for each station. Updates are added while the train is at the station and passed along from platform infrastructure to the train.
LA Metro Gains Digital Information System
The first TPIS network was installed in 2007 within the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in which 350 LCD ruggedized (with the 46-inch displays) indoor screens were placed throughout Metro’s Red Line in all of its 14 stations. Overall TPIS is agnostic as to where it is installed and it works equally well on bus routes as Rivera notes. “On the Purple line, two rail stations are connecting points for buses and our passenger alerts at both stations provide appropriate bus arrival/departure alerts as needed.” In 2011, TransitVUE installed 64 LCD monitors and 24 single line LED message boards on the 21 stations of the Gold Line.
NextBus is a real-time passenger information system and its RTPIS program is owned and operated by NextBus Inc. and utilized by diverse transit agencies, including San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and LA Metro.
The RTPIS program is a predictive analysis software package that presents via electronic signage when the next bus or train will arrive at a given passenger waiting spot. The system was explained by Russell Chun, a NextBus project manager. “It starts with a bus or LRV in motion, which is physically tracked through its transit route. Each bus connected to our RTPIS network has a GPS transmitter whose signal is collected by a NextBus GPS receiver which then merges the bus’s real-time location with its per-stop vehicle arrival prediction. Then the RTPIS program compares the vehicle’s location to its next intended stop and then estimates the vehicle’s minutes to arrival at that stop.
“We know which transit vehicle is sending information, where it is on its route and what its next ‘official’ stop is. That becomes a triangulation that allows us to predict the vehicle’s intended time of arrival to its next stop. As to how effective RTPIS is,” Chun says, “it all depends on what’s happening in the real world as there are some variables we can’t account for such as traffic jams, accidents, bad weather, etc.