CA: Porterville Transit Installs New Technologies for Improved Customer Service

Jan. 2, 2014
The city of Porterville, Calif., recently unveiled its suite of new transit technologies, signage, and solar amenities to improve service for its community of nearly 600,000 transit riders and enhance operational efficiency.

The city of Porterville, Calif., recently unveiled its suite of new transit technologies, signage, and solar amenities to improve service for its community of nearly 600,000 transit riders and enhance operational efficiency. 

During the launch ceremony on Dec. 10, the agency was joined by Mayor Cameron Hamilton, and city representatives and council members, Porterville Transit staff, executives from several other California transit systems, private sector partners, and riders.  The event was held as an annual status update and to recognize both ongoing public and private sector support of the program.

As a small urban system running 14 vehicles, the city of Porterville employed a comprehensive approach toward running its fixed route and demand response operations by partnering with passenger transportation technology provider RouteMatch Software, bus signage provider CHK America, and solar energy provider, Urban Solar.

These new additions have helped further the city of Porterville’s vision to improve the experience of traveling on transit for riders and to establish a foundation of operational sustainability and growth.

Within one year of introducing the technologies, Porterville Transit has experienced benefits.  The city has yielded a 35 percent decrease in demand response operational costs, while increasing the number of passengers per revenue hour from 3 passengers per hour to 5 and 6.

Porterville Transit has additionally experienced a 22 percent ridership increase in its fixed route service after the launch of its RouteShout traveler information system service, new bus stop signage and new solar bus stop lighting. 

The new traveler information service allows riders to pull up information on where the bus is at any given time from their smartphone or cellphone, enabling more convenient trip planning.  Within one month of availability, 2,000 unique users have taken advantage of the RouteShout service.  Due to easier access to real-time bus arrival times and schedules through the web, smartphone, and call center interactive voice response (IVR) service, “where’s my bus” type calls that typically came in at up to 5,000 per month, have been reduced by 80 percent, freeing up time for their scheduler/dispatcher to focus on operations and other strategic community relations-oriented initiatives.  The agency has also deployed tablet devices within its vehicles as mobile data devices for initiating automated voice annunciators, improving driver and dispatch communications, recording key data such as passenger miles for federal reporting requirements, and monitoring of on-time performance.

“Porterville Transit has been fantastic partner from day one,” said Tom Coogan, vice president, RouteMatch Software. “They have utilized multiple facets of our technology platform across both fixed route and demand response services- and the results have made a significant impact on operational sustainability and rider engagement. We are thrilled to be part of serving the Porterville community and other California-based transit systems.”

City of Porterville’s Transit Manager Richard Tree explains the reason behind their success, “We were a typical paper and pen transit agency, faced with rising operational costs, stagnate ridership, and limited funding streams.  We had to embrace technology if we wanted to improve our services and increase community awareness and support.”

To further enhance customer communications, Porterville Transit also partnered with CHK America to design and fabricate new transit signage at its transit center and at all of its 160 bus stops.  CHK America designed a clear, concise and easy-to-understand customer information solution for Porterville, employing their 8-second premise.  That is, customers will only allow 8 seconds to view a piece of information, in which if they don’t begin receiving useful answers to their questions they will become frustrated, resulting in customer anxiety or dissatisfaction.  CHK America utilized the same techniques and premises in designing the city’s new bus stop signage as they used in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and London, just a few of the largest transit agencies across the world they have worked with.

CHK America initially designed and fabricated a four-sided kiosk to display a new system map, timetables, points-of-interest, service and passenger information, and RouteMatch’s real-time bus arrival displays.  The kiosk was designed for superior quality, ease of use, and integrates the transit agency color scheme.

CHK America went on to design and fabricate a new bus stop flag, blade, at-stop panels, post and mounting hardware to effectively communicate between the transit agency and their customers.  The new bus stop flags and at-stop panels provided fundamental elements of information to assist passengers in successfully planning and completing their trip, which the city was missing.

“Before we installed our new signage, our customers thanked us for at least having a sign, but that’s all they were, a sign that says the bus stops here,” Tree said.  “Now our bus stop signage invites customers to use our system, they have everything they need to quickly understand which routes service this stop, at what times, and where they are going.  We also incorporated our RouteShout mobile applications at every stop to allow customers to receive real-time bus arrival and other important service information by text, mobile app, and call center IVR.”

To encourage more customers to use its evening service, the city partnered with Urban Solar Corp. to provide the city with solar powered lighting at every bus stop in their system.  Porterville Transit chose to install Urban Solar’s PV-Stop and PV-Shelter lighting solutions because of their extensive experience and transit- specific focus.  The PV lighting solutions are designed with superior quality and rapid deployment, allowing the city to install them as quickly as 3 minutes.  PV-Stop systems were all covered with vandal resistant powder coating in colors to match the transit agency’s color scheme and unique security bolts were incorporated to prevent theft.

“This extensive transit improvement project conducted by the city of Porterville is one of the largest amenities upgrades for a city of its size.  The city of Porterville holds their riders in the highest regards and understands how providing these critical upgrades increase the safety and efficiency of their riders getting where they need to go.  These system upgrades have also been carefully selected for longevity, so that the city of Porterville’s transit agency sees continued savings on all routes for years to come,” states Jeff Peters, Urban Solar president.

The institutionalization of RouteMatch’s traveler information system, CHK’s transit signage and Urban Solar’s bus stop lighting has allowed the city to expand opportunities and transportation choices for communities they serve.

“I applaud the work of our council and city staff who have worked to expand public transportation services with Tulare County.  The steady increases in transit investment have dramatically improved and expanded public transportation services, attracting a record number of riders on our state-of-the-art system,” Hamilton said.