May 15, 2012

Translink, INIT partner for real-time bus info system

TransLink, the regional transportation authority in Metro Vancouver, Canada, recently launched Version 1.0 of their RTTI (Real Time Transit Information) system, which includes the long-awaited predicted departure of buses from the stop. This product provides passengers with the exact time a bus will leave a given stop.

The bus location information and predicted departure times at stops comes from the transit management and communication system (TMAC) that INIT provided through MOBILE-ITCS and is accessible to TransLink’s web interface through a standardized service interface for real-time information (SIRI). Based on this real time data stream, TransLink has developed its own passenger Web GUI. The agency trademarked the name of the real-time service in 2011 calling it “Next Bus” (not to be confused with the U.S.-based company with a similar name).

The first phase of RTTI (launched in Beta in September 2011) provided passengers with real-time bus location information displayed on an interactive map. After completing 11 Beta releases and incrementally adding significant new functionality, TransLink introduced predicted bus departures with the launch of V1.0 on April 17, 2012.

Before the launch of the new service, the agency spent a considerable amount of time analyzing the predicted departure data from the INIT fleet management system to determine the accuracy level of this information. 

“We compared the predictions in our RTTI system to INIT’s MOBILEstatistics data which, of course, provided the actual departure time of the bus at the stop,” says Patricia Sharp, TransLink’s assistant manager of business applications — transit systems and a member of TransLink’s RTTI project team. The result is a real-time service which significantly enhances the transit experience for customers in the Greater Vancouver service region.

The agency is now working toward upgrading the existing SMS Service (which to date has allowed customers to receive up to six scheduled departure times for a given stop) to a real-time service. This service has been phenomenally successful with typically 50,000 requests processed every day. As well, TransLink is actively working on releasing an API which allows the development of smart phone apps by external developers.

The Next Bus service is part of TransLink’s larger mobile web offerings (which includes Trip planning, Alerts, and many other tools, accessed from http://m.translink.ca). Next Bus is not a smart phone app, but rather a website optimized for mobile users (Android 2.3 smart phones, iPhones and newer versions of BlackBerry are fully supported). It can also be accessed using a standard desktop browser directly at http://nb.translink.ca.

With the new service, a customer can obtain the location of their bus in a number of ways: using the unique bus stop code — the five-digit yellow number printed on each bus stop sign, by keying in an intersection, searching by bus route number or even using the GPS location on their smart phone. The system then takes the customer to a street map showing the bus stop and the actual departure times of all upcoming buses for that stop, as well as the real-time location of each bus equipped with the TMAC system. Real-time location date and departure time predictions are updated every 30 seconds. The real-time service also lets passengers know when service for a trip or stop is cancelled.



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