Bus GPS system up and running

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK Capital Area Transit System CEO Brian Marshall speaks Tuesday about the new GPS tracking system riders can use to determine the arrival time for buses on a route as Tim Quinn, left, of RouteMatch Software, looks on. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK Capital Area Transit System CEO Brian Marshall speaks Tuesday about the new GPS tracking system riders can use to determine the arrival time for buses on a route as Tim Quinn, left, of RouteMatch Software, looks on.

Bus system officials on Tuesday rolled out a series of technology upgrades aimed at improving overall bus service for the public, including GPS tracking devices on buses.

Riders with smartphones can download the app RouteShout for free or visit http://www.BRCats.com to see a live map of bus traveling routes, along with estimated arrival times updated in real time.

“Instead of waiting outside and trying to deal with the schedule, and riders just wondering, ‘Did I miss that bus?’ (when) the bus is 15 minutes behind schedule, they can stay at work that extra five minutes and then come out when they see the bus is there,” said Brian Marshall, chief executive officer of the Capital Area Transit System. “That makes a major difference.”

Marshall said the GPS’ accuracy is within 15 seconds.

Riders who don’t have a smartphone, which is an iPhone, Android or other phone that accesses the Internet, can receive text message alerts on regular cellphones about their bus route by going to the CATS website and subscribing to specific routes, said Kiran Vemuri, CATS planning manager.

Riders who subscribe to a route will be notified via text of any delays or changes made to the route, he said.

CATS partnered with RouteMatch Software, an Atlanta company, for the technology upgrades on the buses.

The upgrades also include LED panels that display approaching intersections and destinations; automated speakers that announce approaching destinations; and digital passenger counters.

Marshall said CATS is now the largest transit system in the nation with both audio and video technology in its buses. He said transit systems in cities like New Orleans are now following CATS’ lead in technology.

The CATS terminal on Florida Boulevard is now outfitted with digital signs that tell waiting passengers how many minutes they have left to wait for the next bus. The terminal also is outfitted with two LCD monitors that mimic departure and arrival time display screens in airports, with a complete list of route information.

The RouteMatch Software contract is for $1.4 million and is covered by federal economic stimulus dollars. CATS will pay $15,000 a year in operational costs to run the system.

Marshall said Tuesday that CATS has cut wait times at peak hours by half for 13 routes, because CATS has received 10 new vehicles and has built up the maintenance schedule to keep the existing fleet running.

On average, the wait times during peak hours are about 30 to 40 minutes now, down from 75 minutes, Marshall said.

CATS promised last year it would deliver 15-minute wait times by 2014, when voters approved a 10.6-mill property tax to expand and improve the bus service. The GPS service was also a key promise in CATS tax platform.