OH: COTA's Real-Time Tracking Service Delayed Again

May 29--Tracking COTA buses in real time won't be available for at least another two months.

Problems syncing satellite data from a third-party vendor with the agency's new website have delayed rollout of the feature until the end of July. COTA originally said it would be available in January.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority's board of trustees approved spending $44,000 more yesterday to correct problems and make other changes to the website. Spending on the website has jumped from about $146,000 in the original contract signed in 2012 to about $219,000.

"This has to work," said COTA spokesman Marty Stutz. "We do not want to have this feature out to the public and have it not work."

When it's ready, the real-time tracking feature will be the centerpiece of a refreshed COTA website. Most traffic to the agency's website is from riders looking for route information, Stutz said.

The tracking feature will let riders plan a trip, find a route and see buses moving through Columbus in real time. It will allow users to save preferences, including stops and routes, and it will be accessible on mobile devices.

But early testing has shown that the system is unreliable. Data has been accurate about 25 percent of the time during internal tests, Stutz said.

The system must be accurate at least 90 percent of the time before the public can use it, he said. COTA will test the feature again through June.

"I'd much rather know this is working than not before it rolls out," said Cleve Ricksecker, vice chairman of the board.

Real-time information also will be displayed at the two bus terminals that COTA is rebuilding this year. That was added as part of a budget increase of $973,000 for the $6.5 million project.

COTA is rebuilding its north and south terminals at 33 W. Spring St. and 33 E. Rich St. to accommodate new buses that are powered by compressed natural gas. The CNG-fueled buses need higher clearances because their tanks are on the roof.

The rebuilt terminals will have sheltered waiting areas, and the board approved additional spending on real-time information, free wireless Internet and to give COTA officials remote access to closed-circuit security cameras.

More funding also was needed because contractors found old building foundations and demolition material when they started excavating at the Spring Street terminal, said Marion White, COTA's chief financial officer.

rrouan@dispatch.com

@RickRouan

@Crawlumbus

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