Tag Archive for InterFleet

How GIS Data Makes Municipalities More Efficient

How-GIS-Data-Makes-Cities-More-Efficient

 

Our Chris Jackson, VP Government Sales, was asked to present at this year’s APWA (Alberta) Partners in Excellence 2013 Annual Conference & Tradeshow held in Red Deer, Alberta. On October 1, he shared the stage with CTS (Certified Tracking Solutions), and presented a 45-minute talk on GIS (geographic information systems) to a room packed with over 100 municipal planners from around the province.

Mapping all city assets to GIS (for example, each city street light tracked by its location and detailed information about its components) is significantly big enough that most municipalities either have a GIS person or a GIS department, and by adding telematics data (vehicle data) to the equation, the combined effect points the way to new benefits in visual interpretation, operational and service-level decision making tools, and spatial processing capabilities. Chris cited the example of InterFleet customer Alberta Transportation, which developed the AVLS Billing System to combine route information and material totals to bill third-party contractors.

Larger municipalities in Alberta, such as Edmonton and Calgary, have gathered over a decade’s worth of municipal GIS data and vehicle data, but smaller communities are just beginning to see the possibilities of what they can do with it. Even so, the successes of Apple and Google’s various consumer-oriented mapping applications have made GIS common knowledge for most people. The word’s out, and constituents are consuming data at ever-increasing rates, which is putting pressure on municipalities to provide it. For Public Works departments, the open data movement is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, communication and transparency; on the other, the risk of public misinterpretation of complex data.

Chris finished by mentioning the successes of the Webtech 511 app, which provided a middle ground for municipalities that want to share the vast amount of data they possess, but fear the risk of having it misinterpreted by software developers who could misrepresent it. Unlike predictive transit information, Public Works GIS information can be very complex, so by promoting an App that they themselves have had a hand in creating, municipalities lessen the risk of having their data misinterpreted while providing a reputable alternative in the event that someone goes ahead with the open data and inadvertently creates a public relations monster.

Automatic Vehicle Locating System

Foresight Lights Up Winter

Are-You-Ready-for-the-First-Snowfall

It’s August, the air conditioning is turned up full blast, and all you can think about is… “I hope my snow plows will be ready when the first winter storm hits”. More likely, you’re thinking about a cool drink by the lake, but while you’re not thinking about winter, InterFleet is. Because, as sure as death and taxes, winter is coming.

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”
? Sinclair Lewis, writer, thinker, Nobel laureate

Shouldn’t This Just Work?

Some people mistakenly assume that AVL technology doesn’t need to be checked after a summer of dormancy. “It should just work”, they say. That perception sometimes carries over to vehicles that have had their plow blades removed for summer work and even had their locators removed.

Even if a vehicle sits idle in the yard for six months of summer, you want the assurance that once the first snow storm hits, its AVL capabilities are ready to go. Statistically speaking, the bulk of accident claims are made against municipalities around the time of the first storm of the year, more so than later when drivers are re-acclimatized to winter conditions. If equipment isn’t ready, you can’t use the AVL data to defend against mistaken (or false) claims. Your winter operations department is on the defensive.

Get Your Fleet Ready for the Storm

According to James Dai, Manager of Winter Light Up, having your AVL components checked early produces significant gains. “After we completed the Winter Light Up service for five customers with a total of 199 snow plows, there were only two service tickets. In comparison, for customers who did not sign up for the WLU program, we received five service tickets for ten plows at one municipality, and six service requests from another municipality with over 15 plows. One city only discovered that ten of its winter maintenance vehicles had not even been reporting its controller data—until February!”

Given those kinds of statistics it’s no wonder field managers who’ve learned the value of using the Winter Light Up program well before winter arrives, endorse if fully. “Whatever you’re charging, it’s well worth it”, said Jim Kettle, Technical Specialist at City of Mississauga, Ontario.

Winter Light Up

Winter Light Up is a program from InterFleet that’s designed to ensure your winter operations are running smoothly before Old Man Winter arrives. InterFleet offers experienced project managers, project coordinators, solution engineers, and certified technicians to ensure your fleet is on-time and ready.  By having our Winter Light Up team analyze the technical details of your existing fleet, you are assured that your units have the right configuration files and the accuracy and details of your advanced reports are verified. This gives you the data you need to respond immediately to events as they unfold.

We ensure your spreader controllers, plow sensors, and temperature sensors are working and all locators are reporting as they should, so you get a thorough audit of your winter fleet’s AVL readiness. Let’s manage winter together so you can focus on storm fighting, not your AVL system.

InterFleet logo

For more information about the InterFleet Winter Light Up program, contact your account manager or call
+1 (877) 434-4844 (Option 2).

 

 

Mississauga Brings Winter Smarts to APWA

City of Mississauga plows
Images courtesy of City of Mississauga

Today marks the first day of spring and, with winter storms still ravaging the continent, most North Americans want to put winter firmly behind them. But for some, winter endures in relatively balmy Charlotte, North Carolina, host city to this year’s American Public Works Association (APWA) Snow Show. On April 7, more than 1,500 “snowfighters” will descend on Charlotte for four days of networking, technical tours, and educational programs. For those attending, one highlight not to miss is hearing Bob Levesque’s success story from the City of Mississauga’s Works Operations department. I phoned Bob to get a sneak preview into the issues he’ll be describing in Charlotte.

Risk Mitigation is Foresight

City of Mississauga sidewalk plow
Bob shows me a picture of a sidewalk plow. It looks like an ordinary urban winter scene in Ontario—a plow, a parked car, a small brick fence by a neighbour’s front yard. Bob sees much more than I do. “If the plow operator isn’t careful”, Bob points out, “he or she could shred the side of the car at the curb”. Then he points out that the neighbour’s decorative brick fence is encroaching on City property and that there are other unknown hazards hidden in the snow.

There are other types of liability too. In the days before Works Operations had implemented their InterFleet GPS/AVL solution (2010), it was very difficult to prove that the department had plowed a street to standard in the event of a complaint or a law suit. “Now we have hard data,” Levesque says, underscoring a certain level of shared responsibility between the City and its residents to take care in winter conditions. “Citizens have to dress appropriately for winter conditions, and we have to provide due diligence in keeping a minimum standard for cleared roads and sidewalks.”

He cites another time when he received a call from the police department about a particularly icy hill. Bob was able to respond immediately by dispatching a salter truck to the hill, thereby preventing a car pile up. With several more examples, Bob convinced me that the best use of a GPS/AVL winter maintenance solution is foresight—knowing what’s going on in real-time allows Operations to make better and quicker decisions about situations before they escalate.

“Our goal is to catch a missed street and dispatch a plow there even before it gets back to the yard.”
­—Bob Levesque, Operations, City of Mississauga

Faster than a Speeding…Snow Plow?

Everyone wants his or her street plowed first and fast, and that puts a lot of pressure on Public Works departments. It comes as something of a surprise then that one of complaints plow operators get is speeding snow plows! Bob attributes this to an optical illusion created by a truck with its plow blade down, “It may be going only 25 mph, but it appears to be going much faster”.  He also describes that the salt controller is attached to the speedometer, so a genuinely speeding snow plow would leave an erratic trail of salt in its wake (perhaps the source of citizen complaints?). Nonetheless with GPS/AVL, the department has speeding covered too as InterFleet can provide reports showing vehicle speeds along routes.

Winter Light Up

Before next winter, Bob plans to take advantage of InterFleet’s Winter Light Up program to ensure that fleet and drivers are ready to go for next year. “Getting prepared ahead of time is going to help in the long run”, says Levesque. Aside from the usual readiness preparations needed after a long hot summer—plows ready, drivers retrained, contractors engaged, and so on—there are sometimes unexpected surprises. “Last year we had a plow reporting in from somewhere in Europe”, Bob says adding that older vehicles are sometimes sold at auctions over the summer months and this one had apparently gone overseas with its Locator still installed. I’m just thinking, “now that, I want to see on a map—with breadcrumbs”.

Come Down to Charlotte for the Snow

City of Mississauga - Bob LevesqueIf you’re attending the APWA Snow Show in Charlotte, make sure you catch Bob Levesque’s presentation, Reducing Liability and Improving Winter Operations Using a GPS/AVL Solution.

Ville de Québec Top Finalist for Intelligent Community Award

Ville de QuébecWe are thrilled to report that Ville de Québec (Quebec City) is among seven finalists for the municipally coveted 2012 Intelligent Community award.

Since 2001, Ville de Québec has been actively developing its broadband infrastructure and, in 2009 as part of its commitment to bettering itself as an intelligent community, implemented our InterFleet solution to its winter fleet operations.

Each year, the Intelligent Community Forum presents this award to intelligent communities that “have come to understand the enormous challenges of the broadband economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it”.  The awards program has two goals: to salute the accomplishments of communities in developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology, and to gather data for ICF’s research programs.

As part of Ville de Québec’s commitment to promoting web-based solutions, the city launched an interactive Web map to provide high-quality cartographic and zoning data. Among other capabilities, the map displays real-time locations of the city’s snow plows. “Through smarter deployment of plows, the city has been able to reduce the number of vehicles and operating expenses per vehicle while providing better results.”

In 2009, Ville de Québec chose Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet solution for their snow plows and winter fleet operational information, because it offered real-time information (five-second reporting and automatic map updates), support for multiple spreader controllers, and great road salt management capabilities.

The seven finalists for the Award (in alphabetical order):

  • Austin, Texas, United States
  • Oulu, Finland
  • Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • Riverside, California, United States
  • Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Stratford, Ontario, Canada
  • Taichung City, Taiwan

More About Québec’s Award Nomination

Are Your Winter Fleet Contractors Worth Their Salt?

City of  OttawaOne of the hidden costs of winter road maintenance is its affect on the environment. Much of the salt applied to keep roads ice free finds its way into soil and waterways. Toxins found in fish, either from surface water or metals dissolved in water by salt, are among the toxic effects of excessive salt usage. A municipality’s ability to supply quality drinking water is also compromised by surface or groundwater that’s contaminated with salt. Soil retains salt year after year, destroying its ability to sustain plants leading to increased erosion. Also, salt residues by the side of roads serve as an enticing salt lick, luring animals into dangerous on-road encounters with vehicles.

“We cannot keep trading short-term cost for long-term cost.”

Reducing salt usage is good for the environment and fits well with municipal, provincial, and state environmental efforts. To address environmental concerns, some municipalities have experimented with other solutions over rock salt, such as using calcium magnesium acetate (as it has far fewer toxic effects). While less toxic, calcium magnesium acetate has the drawback of taking longer to melt ice than rock salt and it’s 20 times more expensive.

One remedy is to drastically reduce the use of cheap rock salt and phase in one or more of the expensive alternatives. But to really reduce your salt usage, you need to increase your ability to track excessive salt usage with precision—especially when it comes to third-party contractors (some of whom charge for salt and thus may be incentivized to use it to excess).

In 2009, The City of Ottawa implemented the InterFleet winter operations solution for government fleets. By gaining the ability to identify excess salt usage by its contractors, the City reduced its salt costs by 20%.

 “Installing GPS technology in our salt spreader vehicles is a great way to help us reduce the amount of road salt we use, and reduce costs at the same time,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien, “By installing these systems, we will both prolong the life of City infrastructure and keep more money in the pockets of Ottawa taxpayers.”

In Ottawa, where they don’t use contractors, InterFleet’s Live Material Monitoring tool saves costs by highlighting in real time when an operator is using pure salt (icon appears red), as opposed to the environmentally friendly alternatives (such as pre-wet applications, allowing for less overall salt usage).

Other government scenarios, which use contractors, utilize InterFleet’s real-time visibility to verify contractor compliance with salt-usage standards. This is particularly advantageous if contractors are charging for salt used.

The most impressive advantage of InterFleet’s real-time visibility is that, unlike passive GPS tools that merely store data and upload it when the vehicle returns to the yard, live data allows a fleet manager to bring immediate attention to help an operator if salt levels are too high. Real-time alerts provide operational efficiency that can foster an environment of cooperation between government and its third-party contractors, and in the end, less salt on the roads means a better environment for everyone.

NextBus Rolls into Saint John

Saint John Transit bus on King Street soon to be equipped with NextBus AVL solution

Saint John Transit bus on King Street soon to be equipped with NextBus AVL solution

Back in February 2010, Webtech Wireless expanded its InterFleet® implementation with the city of Saint John, New Brunswick to include an additional 100 public works and police vehicles—a contract valued at over $100,000. Now to complement the city’s Interfleet solution, Saint John Transit also plans to deploy a Webtech Wireless solution—NextBus.

NextBus will provide Saint John Transit with an AVL tracking solution for its 60 buses, allowing riders to check bus arrivals in real-time. Using PCs, landline phones, cell phones, or SMS text messaging, riders get real-time travel information (each bus is fitted with a satellite tracking system) designed to help them decide whether catching the next bus is a sprint or leisurely stroll. Currently, riders can only view a static schedule of intended bus arrivals and departures on the company’s web site.

NextBus will also install five LCD screens at various locations around the city, including McAllister Place Mall and the university campus (UNBSJ) and LED screens at bus stops. To help make public transport more attractive to potential riders (and as a nod to Saint John Transit’s already existing environmental initiatives), the service will add to the city’s existing hot spots with free WIFI for riders on all its buses.

About NextBus

A subsidiary of Webtech Wireless, San Francisco-based NextBus implements real-time passenger information systems used by dozens of transit agencies, universities and other transit operators across North America. Because traffic variations, breakdowns, and day-to-day problems faced by any transit provider can interrupt service, NextBus was designed to help keep riders on schedule even if their buses aren’t. NextBus uses satellite technology and advanced computer modeling to track vehicles on their routes.

About Saint John

Historic Saint John has been a transportation hub since long before confederation

Historic Saint John has been a transportation hub since long before confederation

As Canada’s oldest incorporated city and New Brunswick’s largest municipality, the city of Saint John has been providing municipal services for more than two centuries. According to Statistics Canada, the Saint John municipal area has a population of 122,389, with a population density of 36.4 persons per square kilometre.

The Port of Saint John is one of Canada’s most important ports (its relatively mild maritime climate keeps its deep-water harbour ice-free year round when inland ports in the St. Lawrence Seaway must contend with ice). This keeps the city’s businesses and industries bustling throughout the year. In 2010 for the first time ever, the Port of Saint John exceeded 30 million metric tonnes of cargo in a single year.

About Saint John Transit

Saint John Transit was established in 1979 to provide scheduled transit service to the city. It replaced City Transit Limited (1948-1979) and a string of others dating back to the People’s Street Railway Company (1869-1876). Saint John Transit is the largest public transit system in the province, both by mileage and passengers.

SaintJohn-110617-01web

Saint John Transit bus now equipped with NextBus wireless AVL solution

Saint John Transit Statistics

Saint John Transit’s ridership is approximately 50 percent higher than the average for Canadian cities with a population of between 50,000 and 150,000.

  • Number of vehicles: 60
  • Ridership: 2.5 million riders per year

Current active fleet bus types:

Greening Saint John

Saint John Transportation Usage - 2006 Census

Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population.

To reduce auto emissions, the City of Saint John, along with the Federal and Provincial governments, is investing in public transportation between uptown Saint John and outlying communities. Branded as ComeX (Community Express), it provides a rapid bus transport service during peak commuting times. With the implementation of ComeX, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to drop by 1,500 metric tonnes and downtown traffic will decrease by 800 vehicles a day over the next five years.

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