Posting in Cities
One Canadian city shows how smart technology can help get people out of their cars and onto city buses and other forms of public transportation.
As many cities struggle to get their residents out of their cars and into buses and other forms of public transit, one city in Canada has provided a useful case study.
Public transportation usage is at a record high in the Canadian city of Brampton. Ridership increased 18 percent in 2011, tripling the national average of five percent in the first six months of last year, according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association. All told, 16.3 million riders made use of Brampton Transit in 2011, 2.5 million more than in 2010, which had already seen a 12 percent increase in ridership.
The uptick is largely due to the introduction of Brampton's bus rapid transit (BRT) system, called Züm. Xerox helped the city launch a SmartBus system to work with its new BRT system.
“Making public transportation more predictable and easier to use makes it more popular,” said Alex Milojevic, senior manager of Business Strategies at Brampton Transit. “Xerox installed systems that our riders now depend on and that we use to provide award-winning service.”
Brampton Transit is a pay-as-you-board transit system for the City of Brampton, located in the Greater Toronto Area. The transit service operates 258 conventional buses and 41 rapid transit buses.
The city's SmartBus system includes:
- Electronic message signs displaying schedule and real-time bus information at terminals and on-board LED signs showing next stop information.
- Interactive Voice Response, providing telephone access to real-time bus schedule and route information.
- Next Ride using SmartTraveler Plus, which gives real-time schedule and route information via web access, mobile web access, email and SMS text.
- A Mobile Data Terminal, allowing operators and on-road supervisors to communicate with dispatch centers through text messaging and vehicle diagnostics.
- On-board security cameras
- Automated Passenger Counting, which provides 98 percent accuracy of the number of riders using bus fleets and routes.
Thanks to its new system, Brampton Transit was awarded the 2011 Distinction Award for innovation, excellence, and leadership by Canada's Government Technology Exhibition and Conference. Perhaps the success of Brampton's efforts can spur other cities to develop similar, user-friendly public transit options.
Photo: Brampton Transit
Mar 7, 2012
So how does Hong Kong get people to use public transportation? The vast majority of the people use it.... My guess is that it is incredibly cheap to use, furiously reliable and dead simple to use even if you *DON'T* speak the language! and unless there's a typhoon on the way, another bus or trail *WILL* be there within 15 minutes (5 minutes with trains) And this is in a city with over 7 million people! Take *THAT* western public transportation!
But as far as I'm concerned the critical factors are frequency & reliability. A bus coming once an hour just won't cut it. Grade separation dramatically improves reliability of on-schedule arrival. Underground, elevated, whatever, but not getting tied up in automotive snafus makes a big difference.
The keys for any successful transit system are simple. 1. Well planned routes. 2. Frequent schedules. 3. Timely service. 4. Low operating costs. The most difficult item in most systems is keeping costs under control. Salaries, benefits, pensions and staffing levels need to be reasonably managed. In many cities the government owned transit authorities have become dumping grounds for politically connected no show jobs. In addition, arbitration laws in most US states assume rate increases and or tax hikes are reasonable sources of money for unions to justify pay raises, lavish benefits and enviable pensions. Transit systems that have run operating deficits for decades are forced to give pay raises that outpace income increases in the dreaded private sector. All subsidized by taxpayers. Bostons MBTA is a great case study for all of this.
How did they make it popular? The article never really answers the subject. Did they make the seats more comfortable? Set up a better pattern of routes somehow? Better environmental controls inside, less noisy inside? Let it go further out in to more rural areas? Personally, making it easier to know the schedule/more predicable... doesn't do much. On google maps, I can get the schedule of any buses near where I am. I can get that on my phone from the website for the transportation org. Always could.
Unfortunately, most systems are politically managed. In my city, the multi-billion dollar transit system was once run by a welfare-queen. (I am not exaggerating) She was originally put on the transit board because the politicians thought that "the poor" needed a voice in running the system. Eventually, she was appointed chairman, a grand symbol of political-correctness run amok. Of course, she was just a figurehead for the mis-managers who actually run the system. But it's hardly a paradigm that led to a well-run system that looked at its riders as their customers as opposed to being an excuse for their existence.
I'm glad you noted this all too typical disconnect between the title and the article - a very common problem in SP's over the top attempt at attracting readers. No matter how many people point it out - it continues.
Buses are notorious when it comes to schedules (hence "wait for an hour then three come along at once"). The trick they deployed is real-time arrival info. However I am fairly dubious about it. In my city, which admittedly is a lot bigger, the busway system has the so-called real time LED indicators at each station and the buses are equipped with GPS transponders etc. but it is crap. Shows ghost buses that never arrive and so nobody looks at it or trusts it anymore. The only thing that has worked is a subset of buses/routes that are so frequent you don't think about timetables. They also require electronic card boarding, with cash not accepted.