System integrates diverse public transit components
Public transportation can conjure up images of smoky old buses that run late, lines of passengers waiting to have their transfer tickets punched and drivers who seem incapable of taking shortcuts to avoid traffic tie-ups.
But not in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the local transportation authority, a 24-hour-a-day operation serving more than 4 million passengers annually, recently unveiled its Advanced Operating System (AOS), which it hopes signals the beginning of a new era for mass transit. AOS integrates communication, maintenance and operations through use of software, GPS, GIS and state-of-the-art equipment.
“We believe our ‘smart buses’ represent the first system anywhere to integrate system communication from operations to maintenance through real-time connections,” says Gregory Cook, executive director of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.
Each AOS vehicle has an 800-MHz radio and onboard computer. The system minimizes voice transmissions by providing data messages regarding vehicle status, operating condition and location. During routine operation, this information is sent over a data channel. But when a driver or dispatcher wants to speak, the radio is switched to a voice channel.
Each vehicle also will be equipped with GPS technology to aid in determining location. Route schedules are stored in on-board computers, and GPS can provide input to driv-ers about whether they are on time, ahead of or behind schedule, as well as the number of minutes off schedule.
New runs and routes can also be inserted or removed from the scheduling system at any time. In case of schedule deviations, the dispatcher can easily assist the driver by inserting overload vehicles in the system or recommending re-routing options.
Other features include:
* Software by Rockwell International, Des Moines, Iowa, that includes an on-board emergency system the driver can activate in a life-threatening situation. The dispatcher can immediately see the vehicle tracked on the map and dial the appropriate agency;
* An automatic vehicle location system that provides visual displays and audible announcements both inside and outside the bus about such matters as the next scheduled stop, the current route and other routes;
* A display terminal that transmits data messages about passenger transfers;
* Computer-aided dispatching that will encompass reservations, scheduling and integration with fixed routes for paratransit vehicles, which are built for senior citizens and people with disabilities;
* Sensors within the engine that continuously monitor mechanical operating status and the condition of engine components – oil pressure, temperature, fuel efficiency, etc. An on-board computer stores data and sends it to the operations center and maintenance department;
* An open database that will permit access from external sources. An Internet Web site and customer kiosks will enable passengers to regularly access real time information; and
* Video surveillance systems that monitor and record activities on and around each vehicle. One of the cameras also records audio.