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Development & Transportation

New Routes Go Live In County's Real Time Bus System

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Flickr user tadekk
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Seventeen more bus routes went live Thursday in Allegheny County’s Real Time Bus Arrival System, which gives riders instant information about where their Port Authority buses are.

The system is now up and running for a quarter of the 102 bus routes in the county, and another 15 routes will go online in the next two weeks. County executive Rich Fitzgerald said all routes will be available on the system by the end of the year.

“What this really does, this real time information, is a tremendous improvement on how we can communicate with our riders,” Fitzgerald said. “It really enters us into a new era and opens a door to multiple opportunities with the service.”

The 17 new routes unveiled Thursday include the 8 Perrysville, 13 Bellevue, 48 Arlington, 58 Greenfield, 86 Liberty and 88 Penn.

Information from the Real Time System is available at the Port Authority's website as well as three third-party smartphone applications that provide the information to riders: Transit, Transit Times Plus and Tiramisu, developed locally at Carnegie Mellon University. According to Fitzgerald, several other application developers are requesting the information from the Port Authority for apps of their own.

The system works through an onboard GPS device which transmits the location of the bus through an antenna on the roof of the bus.  That data is transmitted via a wireless network to the real time server which is then translated into arrival time predictions displayed on the website and the third party apps.

In the coming months, digital signs will be installed at multiple stops and locations for riders to find out how to access the real time information.
 
The bus system cost approximately $3.6 million, Fitzgerald said. Another $5 million will be spent next year in the development of a similar system for the city’s light rail service.

“We think this is an investment that is going to help improve service, improve ridership and help grow the system,” Fitzgerald said. “The more people who realize how reliable it is and how well it’s running, the more they’re going to take it.”

Also in the works for next year is a feature that will allow riders to text their bus stop to receive information about when their ride is coming.

We know that riders make decisions about if they’re going to take a bus by knowing how reliable it’s going to get them to where they have to be,” Fitzgerald said.