January 11, 2010

Web Extra: COTA to take text messaging system-wide

The Central Ohio Transit Authority's (COTA) pilot program that allowed Ohio State University students to receive bus schedule information via cell phone has had enough success to prompt the transit agency to take the service systemwide. The bus-tracking project is based on technology by RouteShout, a PIttsburgh-based provider.

Since Oct. 15, students have been able to send a text message from a particular bus stop and receive the next scheduled time a bus is due to arrive. More than 4,000 individuals have used the service, says COTA spokesperson Elizabeth Berkemer. "We're watching [the program] to see what kind of response we get," she explains. "So far it's been very positive and this makes our case to go systemwide."

The transit agency decided to focus on university students in its pilot program due to their frequent use of text messaging. "We know that there's going to be a high concentration of people using text messages per capita there. If you look around, most students you see have a cell phone in their hand and half the time, they're texting someone," Berkemer says.

In addition, COTA hopes to make information available in real-time by 2011. "When we have a real-time system, people will be able to see when the next bus will be pulling up, not just the next scheduled stop, so they will know if it's running early or late," Berkemer says.

The real-time service will be supported by an upcoming $8.1 million computer system and fleet technology upgrade at COTA.

 

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