GPS Implementation in Public Transit

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By Mark Peterson

Global Positioning Systems are streaming into all phases of transportation, including public transit. The technology that helps the average commuter get to the mall or across the country is now reaching beyond the automobile to the lady in the green coat standing at the bus stop.

Transit systems across the country are implementing GPS technology in their fleets for a number of reasons. The two key factors are information and safety.

Public Transportation In the world of paper, it is a daunting task to predict for passengers when busses will arrive and depart at bus stops along the route. The current system without the use of GPS involves setting a schedule based on a number of time trials. After the trials are completed, routes are established and maps and schedules are produced. The current system would work fine if traffic and ridership were constant and static, but instead they are dynamic and not always predictable. With GPS, schedules and maps still exist, but in addition, audio information boxes are installed at each bus stop, at terminals, and in public places. The passengers waiting know exactly where the bus is in route. The technology can also send text messages to riders registered in the system regarding possible delays due to traffic, trains, weather or other factors so they can make alternative plans for transportation, if necessary.

More importantly, the implementation of GPS fleet management in public transit increases traffic safety. It frees the driver from turning on the microphone, moving it into position, and announcing key locations along the route as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA stop announcements are automated with the GPS systems. Bus operators focus on traffic safety instead of being distracted by making required announcements. It also improves safety by decreasing the amount of communication that the driver makes over the radio system with dispatch. Dispatch can visualize where the bus is at any given time and does not have to radio to driver and request their location. Again, less mechanical manipulation of devices such as two-way radios creates a safer ride for the passenger.

The use of GPS vehicle tracking systems in public transit is allowing passengers of all walks of life to stay informed up to the second about their mode of transportation. They can get the information they want and need at bus stops, bus terminals, in public buildings that accommodate the system, or anywhere that they have access to the internet. Once the passenger has the information, and accesses the bus service, they get a safer ride, which is even more important.

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