Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Can Technology Save Mass Transit?

Metropolitan bus operations are perennially squeezed by rising costs and declining ridership. Are there any technological solutions that can help them improve operational efficiency and increase the number of passengers? Perhaps so. Dulles-based Orbital Sciences brings some interesting new approaches to a traditional business.

Orbital recently won an $11.7 million contract to provide a SmartBus System to track the 300-vehicle fleet of Foothill Transit in West Covina, Calif. The company will utilize its GPS satellite-based OrbCAD fleet management system to keep buses running on time by coordinating with traffic signals, keep riders updated on real-time scheduling information, and provide other efficiencies.

Foothill Transit will deploy a fully integrated vehicle equipment suite in each of its buses. Benefits include simplified driver operations, ADA regulatory compliant announcements to the public and enhanced passenger security through an advanced video and audio surveillance system. The Foothill Transit fleet is linked to its divisions and headquarters through a wide-area communications radio system that provides a complete assessment of fleet operations and enables rapid response to incidents through the Orbital TMS system.

A Bus Signal Priority capability controls traffic signals to assist buses in maintaining their published schedule. Additionally, Orbital's Advanced Traveler Information System will provide real-time schedule information to the public at major Foothill Transit centers and throughout the regional transit information system. Said Orbital executive David A. Kachemov: "Situational awareness, responsiveness to incidents, service restoration and enhanced customer service are just a few of the benefits that Foothill Transit will realize when the new SBS system is fully implemented." Read the press release.


At 9:31 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Well, so much for synchronizing traffic lights. Anyone stop to think how much this might snarl traffic for the 70% of road users who are not riding transit?

Let's assume for a moment that this works spectacularly. It is so good that everyone gets out of their car to ride the magic buses. Who is going to pay the gas tax that maintains the roads?

The FAA has been trying to do this with aircraft for over twenty years and they don't have a conflict avoidance system that works yet.

Don't hold your breath.


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