– Ottawa considering ‘SmartBus’ system

CBC News

Canada

Ottawa’s public transit agency is considering adopting a $17-million system that automatically calls out bus stops and allows people to track their bus routes on wireless devices or the internet.

The SmartBus system, developed by Plainview, N.Y.-based Clever Devices, was unveiled at an OC Transpo demonstration in Ottawa Thursday. The system can:

  • Announce bus stops in French and English.
  • Track buses in real time, making the data available on the internet, portable wireless devices and electronic signage at stations.
  • Transmit public service announcements from a central location to provide passengers with information about unplanned detours or emergencies, such as amber alerts.

The system, which is already used in Chicago and Washington, would cost an estimated $17 million to install in 943 Ottawa buses, about 90 per cent of the public transit company’s fleet.

The city’s transit committee is to consider the system at its meeting on Sept. 16, and it will go to a final vote at city council on Sept. 23. If it is approved, installation will take place between 2010 and 2016.

Coun. Alex Cullen, chair of the city’s transit committee, said the system won’t just benefit customers but will boost efficiencies for the city as it includes:

  • A GPS system more accurate than the one currently used to track OC Transpo buses, which will lead to more accurate schedules.
  • A system that monitors the condition of buses and makes it easier to do preventative maintenance or diagnose mechanical problems.
  • Wireless capability that could make it easier to incorporate wireless functionality in the Smartcard system scheduled to roll out in 2011.

In 2007, the Canadian Transportation Agency ordered OC Transpo to call out major stops and stops requested by passengers after a complaint from a blind passenger. Later that year, the city’s transit committee voted not to buy an $8-million system that would have called out stops automatically.

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