5 Biggest Benefits of Real-time Passenger Information Systems

- Oct 09, 2017-

How Your Agency Can Save Money, Time, and Aggravation?

Real-time Passenger Information Systems provide a wealth of information to both the transit agency’s customers, as well as the managers, planners, supervisors, and even bus operators of that transit agency. The name “Real-time Passenger Information System” seems to imply that the benefits of such systems are reaped only by the passengers of the transit agency. This is simply not true, and a wealth of valuable information is available to assist the agency through both archived and real-time automated vehicle location (AVL) and automatic passenger counting (APC) data.(Now Bus Passenger Counter integrate realtime location and tracking and remote control with accurate passenger counting information) Agency functions as diverse as accident analysis, operations planning, accident/incident response, and the resolution of customer complaints are just some of the many additional areas where data obtained through an RTPIS can have a significant impact.

The archived data from the BPC systems must be linked together in order to provide the greatest benefit to the agency. In this manner, passenger counts are linked to specific portions of routes and even individual bus stops.

So what can your agency do with this BPC data?

1. Save money The high costs of diesel fuel and transit labor require that transit agencies operate as efficiently as possible. Management must take a hard look at the utilization of transit service and determine areas where reductions are prudent. Archived BPC data can provide agency management with the data they need to make significant cost reductions while impacting as few customers as possible. Agencies are able to drill down to the individual passenger stop level and determine which stops, and even route segments, are underutilized. Once these areas are cut, the remaining route segments can be reorganized and served using fewer routes, vehicles, and operators.

2. Enhance transit planning efficacy Gone are the days when a stopwatch, pencil, and paper were needed to create or update timetables on fixed transit routes. Without 3G GPS Tracking technology, transit agencies must resort to this labor intensive and lengthy process when creating new routes or improving existing routes.

Some considerations:

  • Timetables are often created using assumptions about traffic patterns which are inaccurate.

  • Political pressures may also force transit planners to create timetables which conform to some artificial constraints.

  • Over time, even the most thoroughly researched timetables need updating as traffic conditions change.

  • Archived BPC data on existing fixed routes can be used to determine the ‘real-world’ version of the timetable.

  • Archived BPC data can also be used when designing new routes and timetables. Transit planners can use a transit vehicle as a data probe. This vehicle travels the proposed route throughout the day and collects BPC data. After several days of data collection, timing patterns will emerge and enable the planner to create a solid timetable.

3. Resolve passenger complaints

One of the chief complaints of transit riders is that the bus did not arrive as scheduled. It is difficult for a transit agency to determine which complaints are valid and warrant a discussion with the vehicle operator, and which complaints are the result of errors on the passenger’s part. This ambiguity is resolved by using archived BPC data to determine precisely when a vehicle arrived at each passenger stop. RTPI systems also allow for the creation of schedule adherence reports, and quickly highlight any problem areas. It is a win-win situation for everyone: Vehicle operators are protected from groundless complaints, agency management has objective data and can respond to valid problems, and the transit customers end up with a more reliable form of transportation.

4. Respond quickly to accidents and incidents

BPC data use in real-time can truly be the difference between life and death. Transit supervisors and first responders must quickly and accurately determine the location of vehicle accidents and emergencies. In the absence of BPC, agencies typically rely on the bus operator to communicate accurate location information. During an accident or other emergency incidents such as hijackings, bomb threats, and assaults, the bus operator may be unable to provide that information. BPC coupled with a silent alarm will enable the transit supervisors to instantly pinpoint the location of the vehicle involved and relay that information to first responders. If the vehicle is moving, precise location updates can be reported to ensure a quick resolution to the situation.

5. Manage non-fixed route operations

Many transit agencies provide demand-response and charter services, and these operations must be carefully monitored to ensure that the client is receiving excellent customer service. Real-time BPC data is used to efficiently dispatch demand-response requests to the nearest vehicles. This data is also used during large charter operations such as sporting events or university commencements to coordinate and manage the service provided. For example, the University of Maryland, College Park hosts football games which attract up to 54,000 people. Moving these people and connecting them with the various transportation modes through bus rapid transit is a significant undertaking. The University relies on a RTPIS to provide real-time BPC information for use in coordinating this service. Buses are dispatched to where they are needed the most, and timely information can be relayed to and from supervisors in the field concerning traffic conditions and vehicle movements.

Real-time Passenger Information Systems dramatically improve the customer experience. While RTPIS are traditionally known for providing real-time arrival predictions to passengers, they are not as well known for their ability to provide the transit agency with a wealth of useful information. Transit agency operations are significantly improved when AVL and APC data is used to guide transit planning, respond to accidents and emergencies, resolve passenger complaints, and manage non-fixed route operations. Most importantly today, this technology can save the transit agency a significant amount of money.