This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.
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The transportation sector is in the midst of a major data management transformation that will enhance serviceability, security and passenger relations in the foreseeable future. At the 2005 International Public Transportation Expo, held in conjunction with the APTA (American Public Transportation Association) annual meeting in Dallas, there were more than a few vendors introducing passenger notification, transit operation data visualization and content management solutions. As mass-transit providers struggle to provide relief from high gas prices, increase ridership and attract choice riders, this is great news.
In the very near future, passengers can expect to have the same level of advance notification of rider options and transit arrival/departure times as airlines currently provide. For example, several companies are exploring solutions to provide mass-transit passengers with real-time notification of arrival time for a bus or train or notification that there is a delay due to traffic or mechanical problems.
Many of these applications will communicate to riders via e-mail, phone or PDA device to let them know exactly when their transportation will be at their chosen stop. For passengers, this will be a much appreciated service, and some may wonder what took transportation providers so long to deliver this level of customer service. As mentioned earlier, the airline industry has been doing this for years.
The challenges are quite evident for mass transit because unlike the airline industry, mass transit does not have any standardization in back-end GIS or advance vehicle locator (AVL) systems. Each transit provider has its own AVL and GIS system with no integration to other transit providers’ AVL and GIS systems. For example a passenger in Los Angeles would only be able to get information for Los Angeles transit – not for San Diego transit. Due to the vast number of transit authorities in the country, a passenger would need to subscribe to each transit agency’s passenger-notification system (provided they have one).
Mass transit, however, is moving in the right direction. The industry clearly understands that it needs to extend customer service, operate efficiently and offer real-time information – especially when it comes to real-time travel and security information.
The challenge is to deliver to passengers a unified view based on the disparate data sources of each transit agency. The benefits of riding mass transit would clearly be measurable and most likely more enjoyable. Recently Trapeze Group, a market leader for transportation applications, released its passenger notification application to customers currently using Trapeze. For organizations dealing with fixed-route and demand-response service, the Trapeze Passenger Information System is designed to deliver timetables and travel information through a number of media such as printed information, call centers, booking centers, Internet and interactive voice response (IVR) systems.
Google is currently developing and testing a trip planner portal for Portland transit and will soon have other transit fixed-route schedules as part of the portal. It is quite obvious that Google’s vision is to offer a single portal for trip planning that will enable passengers to plan itineraries using various transit agencies across the country.
I will keep you posted on the progress of initiatives of this type, so stay tuned.