Out of the 9.9 billion public transportation trips Americans took in 2019, how many of them were taken by disgruntled passengers? How many were forced to wait for delayed buses or trains to show up? While public transportation ridership across the United States has grown by 28 percent since 1995 according to the American Public Transportation Association, precision is still a work in progress for many transit authorities across the country. Fortunately, UniteGPS has the means to improve ridership with Town Transit!
How does Town Transit improve ridership?
If you depend on public transportation or work in the industry, imagine a system where both commuters and officials take matters into their own hands. Literally. From fare validation to viewing the real-time bus location, to administrators adding or altering bus stops based on accurate up-to-date metrics; all of this is possible with our enterprise solution, Town Transit!
“This GPS system is perfect for the smaller and medium-sized agencies because it doesn’t need all the bells and whistles,” said Jim Fetzer, Operations Manager at Clallam Transit System in Washington where 35 buses from his fleet use the solution.
Back in the day, Fetzer used to work in Orlando where transit agencies were paying between three and four million dollars simply to install GPS systems on over 300 transit buses. That’s not even including the annual fees. Well, according to Fetzer, Town Transit achieves everything that these expensive systems did and more for a fraction of the price.
“[Town Transit] has all of the basic functions that we and the customers are looking for at a reasonable price, so we’re very happy with it… As far as our dispatch office is concerned, it does everything that we need.”Jim Fetzer, Operations Manager at Clallam Transit System
Town Transit is a SaaS (software as a service) empowering users to monitor every facet of public transportation, especially transit authorities. Specially made for small and medium-sized agencies, customers can look forward to a mobile interface, passenger counting, real-time physical bus location, and so much more, over one streamlined system.
Say goodbye to clipboards and tally sheets with this affordable solution! Below are the essential components of Town Transit that small and medium-sized transportation authorities can anticipate by implementing this software.
URL MOBILE APPLICATION
To improve ridership, Town Transit uses cost-effective web-based solutions for transit partners to provide to their passengers. These are user-friendly and don’t even require downloading an app but simply going to a customized website. Rather than developing Android or iOs apps, this interface is less expensive to deploy. Moreover, this format is more reliable as to avoid worrying about constant updates and maintenance.
Using GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) data allows these apps to constantly stream the live location of buses and create mileage reports. Therefore, passengers don’t ever need to wait out in the cold longer than they have to! Like the data prowess of Crosswalk K-12, live location updates every five seconds to always keep people more informed in the process.
This customer-facing program is one thing that Tami Dragoo at Grays Harbor Transit in Aberdeen, Washington really appreciates about the solution.
“Riders love Town Transit, they don’t have to call the dispatch office because they can see on their phones if the bus has gone by them,” said Dragoo, who has worked at Grays Harbor Transit for almost 24 years, most recently as the Clerk of the Board/IT/Marketing & Outreach. “It’s cut down on phone traffic and people are more informed about their bus routes.”
In the beginning of using Town Transit, Dragoo recalls going to industry events with other transit agencies and feeling pleasantly surprised that not even the larger authorities from across Washington State had implemented a GPS tracking system into their fleets.
“They were like, ‘woah, we don’t even have that,” Dragoo chuckled in an interview. “Maybe the technology they invested in wasn’t the way to go. Maybe keeping it simple, like what we’ve done, is the better solution.”
FLEET VIEW RESPONSE
Coinciding with the mobile platform is the Fleet View feature that dispatch offices have with Town Transit. For Fetzer at Clallam Transit System, this is particularly useful based on the ruralness of the county where routes can be anywhere between 70 and 80 miles between cities. All the while, there are mountains and rugged terrain where buses could get stranded if proper GPS measures weren’t made.
Well, with the Fleet View feature sharing the real-time location of buses out on the road, agencies can send maintenance crews out to fix a bus in case it breaks down or malfunctions. In turn, this also helps Fetzer provide reliable transportation to community members living between Forks, Port Angeles, as well as three Native American tribes. These indigenous communities represent large numbers of the agency’s ridership.
“Public transportation is pretty critical here,” says Fetzer, stressing that if you live in the western part of the county, you will have to come 170 miles east to get any sort of services. “We call them life line routes.”
PRECISE PASSENGER COUNTING
Just like a continuous tally counter, the Town Transit mobile solution also tracks every transit passenger movement. Thanks to the tablet installed at the front of the bus, this user-friendly interface effectively gathers the number of passengers, time of arrival or exit, date of travel, latitude-longitude location, and even the payment method used.
In the end, every discernable action transforms itself into data. Like a continuous stream, everything is neatly uploaded into the cloud-based system and easily accessible for analysis or reporting. Each day and action essentially becomes a fresh new package of valuable information stored in the system to glean perspective insight. Being able to track the frequency of passengers in a low-cost but effective manner surely helps transit authorities make more informed business decisions over route alterations and fare regulation.
For example, as Dragoo’s transit authority strategizes reintroducing weekend service since COVID struck plus extending hours, she resorts to the solution for cold hard numbers. Regarding night service, Dragoo saw exactly how many people rode the bus after 9 p.m. throughout the month of September. Out of 25,000 monthly boardings, the software informed her that 282 passengers fell under this category with the precise time and location; things you were never able to capture on a manual basis.
When asked if Tami misses the good old days of manual logging she gave a candid response: “No, heavens no. I have been here for almost 24 years and have done a lot of things here, and no. I’m not sad to see those manual days go.”
IMPROVED PAYMENT VALIDATION
Another Town Transit benefit is how it replaces the ultra expensive Electronic Validating Farebox (GFI) with automated payment verification. Whether a passenger is paying with a pass or cash, drivers validate everything by clicking a button on the tablet.
In consideration to the advanced hardware, these GFI machines are also exorbitantly expensive with prices going between US$10,000 and US$25,000. Even worse, if the fare boxes aren’t functional to verify ridership, then some buses can’t operate until they’re fixed.
By and large, these devices were going out of style at Clallam County before Town Transit streamlined the entire process.
“We actually don’t have the GFI fareboxes out here,” said Fetz, who used to work at larger transit agencies in Orlando and Tampa handling multi-million software. “It’s hard to make a justification for such an expensive box. Some routes in the bigger cities, then it would make sense but here we’re rural.”
ROUTE OPTIMIZATION TO IMPROVE RIDERSHIP
Speaking of route alterations, Transit Route Planning and Heatmaps are two major optimization features within the Town Transit solution. With the Transit Route Planning, partners can really use their imagination and visualize things differently. That’s to say, they can move bus stops around, add a stop here, delete one there. What have you. Think of it like drawing! This is a vital tool for any transit authority or dispatch teams to create more efficient systems in their community
Similarly, the Heatmap feature provides transit partners with some critical analysis tools for potential route alterations. Built for route optimization, this allows clients to know the who, what, when, where and how passengers use bus systems.
All of this is achieved through using a color-coordinated display shown on the tablet or web interface. Green represents the number of people boarding a bus while red signifies passengers disembarking. Determine whether adding or scrapping a bus stop is necessary by dividing the data into time segments. This way, you can see the highest or lowest passenger frequency during any time of day.
ANNUNCIATION CAPABILITY FOR TOWN TRANSIT
Even passengers with hearing challenges benefit from Town Transit’s annunciation features, meaning announcements to improve ridership. People with partial or severe blindness can also anticipate the intercom system announcing each stop. Again, this is also powered by the tablet and connected by an AV cord. Since the tablet foresees each upcoming stop, the technology can make announcements just like another bus speaker system. This is an easy integration that works in tandem with the tablet and the Gillig Auxiliary Input chord.
If it doesn’t ring a bell, Gillig is a popular retailer that replaced the obsolete stereo systems of the 1970s. You know, the ones that once sat behind drivers in what looked like a cabinet full of knobs wires. Without old infrastructure, today we a have a sleek box connecting the tablet with a dongle 3.5 mm jack.
Now with the Gillig Auxiliary Plug-In chord, drivers simply plug one end into the tablet and the other (like a stereo chord) into the PA system and voila. Annunciation. Thanks to an Android text-to-speech feature running on the tablet, this pairing will result in voice synthesis. The end result: being able to announce the name of a bus stop when it’s 250 feet ahead.
PARATRANSIT SERVICES ON TOWN TRANSIT
Equally integral for transit authorities are separate modes of transportation for the elderly or people with disabilities known as paratransit; supplemental fixed-routes in major transit systems with lots of potential in APIs. This often involves a separate fleet of smaller vehicles for folks with disabilities, reduced mobility or inability to drive. Pre-approved common destinations include the grocery store, doctor appointments, pharmacies, etc.
As part of the “dial-a-ride” feature to improve ridership with Town Transit, passengers simply need to enroll over the app to set up an account. Once approved, then they can start designating pick-up and drop-off locations. Some may compare this to Uber where assigned drivers work predetermined routes with the transaction paid for over the app. Whether on the app or desktop version, users can see the trip being fulfilled in real-time using our interactive map.
If you’re a current or potential partner reading this, we hope this blog post helps improve ridership with Town Transit!