Tag Archive for transit

An Ounce of GPS Prevention

CalVans

For CalVans (California Vanpool Authority), success is not measured by how it makes the news, but from its successful avoidance. While the Media may feast on stories of accidents and negligence, CalVans relaxes in the knowledge that “No news is good news”.

Originally established in 2001 with just one van, CalVans was since grown to more than 200 vanpools designed for the unique needs of commuters, students, and farm workers. By providing a cost-effective and convenient alternative to commuter driving, while meeting the needs of the State’s environmental and transportation needs, CalVans is a vital part in a growing community transportation network.

Using Webtech Wireless’ GPS/AVL tracking is part of what makes CalVans a no-news success story, because it helps prevent accidents, theft, and other bad news from filling the papers:

  • Drivers, passengers, and all users of the road are safer because drivers are alerted in real-time when they speed, and speeding reports help CalVans monitor its drivers.
  • Through theft prevention and driver authentication, insurance premiums are kept low.
  • By providing an alternative to California’s notorious highway gridlock while helping to reduce C02 emissions, CalVans qualifies for State grants and other funding.
  • Fleet vehicles last longer because the Webtech Wireless Maintenance Portal enables CalVans to pro-actively monitor engine status and schedule van maintenance.

How to Use the NextBus AVL Solution

In our July 21st, 2011 blog post (which coincided with the inauguration of Saint John Transit’s implementation of NextBus), I described the innovation, the need, and the application of Nextbus. Since then, this helpful YouTube video has appeared (courtesy of The City of Saint John, NB) describing how to use Nextbus for finding your next bus when in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

While the Nextbus AVL system is so easy and intuitive to use it hardly needs directions, this video can be helpful if you’re not familiar with computer-based solutions or you would like an overview of how NextBus works from the client end.

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.

Additional reading:

How Nextbus Transit Technology Serves Riders

Webtech Wireless’ NextBus solution is now the transit technology that municipalities (from Montreal’s Société de transport de Laval to the Los Angeles Metro) rely on to provide accurate real-time public transportation information to millions of riders. Like other AVL solutions, NextBus uses global positioning system (GPS) tracking satellites to display transit vehicle locations in real-time. So what makes Nextbus’ particular solution so helpful?

Tackling the Problem

There is something of a perfect storm closing in on public transit systems these days. Rising fuel costs are driving many commuters to use public transit as their primary method of transportation, and with traffic variations, breakdowns, and other day-to-day problems leaving riders waiting at bus stops and train platforms, they’re increasingly turning to instant wireless communications (such as cellphones, PDAs, text messaging, etc.), to manage their lives. These riders rely on and expect reliable location-based services.

“The need for a predictive transit solution became apparent as a means to encourage ridership and streamline bus routing.”

Designing the Solution

To address these problems, NextBus was designed to “keep your customers on schedule even if their bus isn’t”. Using GPS tracking, NextBus estimates vehicle location information with a high degree of accuracy. Using PCs, landline phones, cell phones, or SMS (Text) messaging, riders get real-time travel information, which helps them decide whether catching the next bus is a sprint or leisurely stroll.

NextBus uses Google maps to show highly accurate route maps

Viewed through a web browser, NextBus uses Google maps to show highly accurate route maps

“NextBus helps riders make the best use of public and university transit.”

From the standpoint of transit authorities, deploying a transit AVL solution helps transit companies improve customer service, reduce accidents, reduce fuel and labor costs, improve operator performance, and improve street-level visibility for transit supervisors and planners.

In the New York Times writer, Joshua Brustein praises the recent deployment of NextBus to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Los Angeles began using NextBus for its entire bus system in May, the largest transit agency to do so.” Or, according to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority itself, the NextBus solution is “designed to help take the guesswork out of bus arrival and help you to get to your stop at the same time as your bus”.

Using NextBus on Your Smartphone

Just as the adoption of the cell phone became universal a decade and a half ago, the smartphone is now a ubiquitous part of life for most urbanites. According to New York Times writer, Damon Darlin, “historians will remember the advent of the smartphone as something as important as the elevator, air conditioner and automobile.”

The implication for transit companies is clear: adopt an AVL solution or face irritation and disinterest from your ridership. Fortunately, transit authorities are reading the writing on the wall and many of them are choosing NextBus—for its reliability and simplicity.

“NextBus, a wonderful Web site that monitors the arrival of city buses in many big cities, is a godsend.”

While there is no official phone application for Nextbus, the simplicity of the NextBus website makes it easy to use on most smartphones.

NextBus iPhone

NextBus viewed on an iPhone

To access NextBus using a smartphone:

  1. Using your smartphone’s web browser (such as Safari), access the NextBus website: www.nextbus.com.
  2. Choose the mobile version or the full-featured website.
  3. Select your location, your transit agency, your route, and then your stop.
    The most current prediction for the arrival time of the next vehicle is displayed.
  4. You also can add your stop info to your home screen so it will be instantly available.
  5. If a prediction is already displayed on your smartphone, simply push the ‘refresh’ link at the bottom of the page to get the most up to date information.