THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO PASSENGER INFORMATION SYSTEMS

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1 WHITEPAPER THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO PASSENGER INFORMATION SYSTEMS

2 Passenger information systems come in many different forms. They are comprised of direct methods of communication, such as websites and text messages to pass on real-time information about bus locations and status updates. They can also include social media interaction. Your agency now has a great deal of power to provide riders real-time bus information wherever and whenever they are, via: Web (Online; Internet) Smartphones, Tablets and Phablets SMS/Text Messages Calling in The overall goal is to improve service to riders by increasing communication of desired transit information. Synchronized data between CAD/AVL in the bus and fixed route software in the office provides a reliable source of information that is then automatically passed on to riders. The Overall Benefits 1. Reduction in perceived wait times 2. Increase in dispatch efficiency 3. Amplified perception of service improvements 4. Fewer where s my bus calls for call centers to deal with 5. Increase in ridership 6. Fewer rider complaints and calls 7. 3rd party applications can be developed for free 8. Real-time updates (via social media) can respond to questions about service issues 9. Gives riders the power in their hand to manage their travel times 2

3 1. Real-time Bus Information Via Different Channels Your Passenger Information Systems can be accessed from many channels: Internetconnected devices, home computers, and over the phone. Because all the information is fully integrated with back office software and updated automatically, your riders have anywhere access and an enormous amount of control over their transit experience. Your Web App displays real-time schedule information as well as trip planning tools and can be accessed from any Internet-connected device. Responsive Design Web App 1. All the benefits of your website, only mobile. Riders expect to be able to access your transit information on their mobile devices as well as their home computers. They also expect these sites to be userfriendly. A mobile-optimized Web App provides the familiar feel of other popular mobile applications. The responsive design nature of the Web App ensures that it will have an attractive look on any device and provide the same great set of built-in trip planning features. 2. No designers, no developers need apply. Riders get an incredible mobile experience with the look and feel of an expensive application: but without the need to hire application designers and a development team. Your Web App is fully branded to your agency s color scheme and complete with your logo. Eliminate the need to maintain both a web site plus a standalone app separately. Once set up, new schedule information is automatically updated, without the need for IT intervention. 3. Faster upgrades and fewer crashes. If you were to design, develop and maintain your own standalone app, upgrades can cause system-wide outages. They also have a penchant for crashing. A Web App can easily accommodate upgrades to add new features and are far more stable than a standalone app. Users can then instantly get those new features without having to upgrade anything on their devices or fear of system down-time. SMS Text Messaging 1. Provide accurate departure times. Not every rider has access to a web-enabled device, or else they simply prefer to receive information via text message. By simply texting a unique ID number, located on every bus stop, riders can receive information on their phones. CAD/AVL data provides completely dependable information. 2. Next bus and next three buses. A lot of information can be contained in a simple text message. Riders can plan up to an hour ahead of schedule, simply by knowing when 3

4 the next few buses are scheduled to pass through a particular stop. 3. Sms messages are free to receive. Your riders can rest assured that text messages are a far more economical way to transmit and receive information. Texting prevents the need to use up valuable mobile data time that is associated with vising a website. Fixed Route IVR 1. Reach riders by phone. Riders can also call in and receive next-bus departure information with our Fixed Route IVR feature. By dialing the number provided on the bus stop, real-time departure information can be relayed over the phone using an automated service. 2. Call center relief. We all know how many calls asking where s my bus can overwhelm a call center. Considering that the vast majority of incoming questions can be answered with a single social media post, you will most definitely see a decline in complaints and calls. This can then provide more time for your operators to deal with calls regarding more pressing matters. Wayside and Transfer Station Signage 1. Provide accurate bus arrival times. Take your passenger information systems to the next level by providing LED wayside and transfer station signage. All the displayed information comes directly from your back office software and is updated in real-time. Provide relief to riders who might otherwise call in to enquire about arrival times or who simply suffer the stress of waiting at a stop. 2. Go beyond with extra information. On top of displaying relevant information about arrival and departure times for your vehicles, you can display an enormous array of extra elements. Consider the value of providing global and local news, weather forecasts, or updates from the sports and entertainment world. 3. Real-time updates about service. Riders feel a better sense of security and continuity when they can find out what s happening. Should an issue occur, you can provide updates and details about what s causing a potential delay. Inform riders if a particular route is on detour due to a street incident so they can make more informed decisions about their trips. 4. No device? No problem. Messages and updates can easily reach riders waiting at stops or stations. Information gets relayed even faster than if riders were to access updates on their mobile devices. Your investment in rider satisfaction translates into better engagement, which improves the overall transportation experience. 4

5 2. The Ultimate Trip Planning Tool Provide your riders the tools to plan trips from start to finish. When they open your Web App on any device, a location-based home screen allows riders to simply enter a destination and the app can determine the closest bus stop to their location. Riders are given options that take into account not only bus travel times, but also the time to walk to and from stops. Because your CAD/AVL system collects data in real-time, information about service delays, detours and more can be relayed to riders quickly. Easy-to Understand Map View Unlike the days when bus schedules were posted as a series stops, bus IDs, days and times, riders can view routes on a map. At a glance, they can tell where their bus will stop, turn and connect with possible transfer buses and can enable street view to be able to check out the surroundings of where they will be getting on and off the bus. This makes it incredibly easy to visualize a trip from start to finish even for complex interline systems. Estimated Departure Times are Displayed By simply clicking on a designated stop, riders can see the scheduled departure times of each bus on that route. With immediate knowledge, riders can see bus frequency and make immediate decisions on when it s desirable (and in some cases, safe) to venture to a stop. Google Trip Planner Integration You can easily export your schedule to Google Trip Planner so riders can better tailor and manage their transportation experience. Wherever they are, riders can see your routes and schedule in relation to where they are. They can also view all other forms of transportation options. All without the need to navigate away from your website. 5

6 3. Instant and Integrated Schedule Information The Set it and Forget it Effect Once your Web App is set up and skinned to the logo and branding of your agency, there is little else for your IT department to handle. When a schedule is changed, it simply gets automatically updated in real-time. Riders can then view this information from wherever they are. Tied to Back Office Software Your Web App and other passenger information systems such as transfer stations signs are tied to the back office scheduling software. The means when a scheduling change occurs or a new schedule is pushed out, it updates everywhere. You don t have to upload anything to your site. It simply receives a flat file and it then updates automatically. Developed With IT in Mind Automated passenger information systems are ideal for sites that don t have a dedicated IT staff. Static sites containing static schedules require constant maintenance in order to edit them so they are kept up to date. With no IT intervention, you can still broadcast real-time schedules. 6

7 4. Open Data Sharing for Third-party Developers Increase Community and Rider Engagement By sharing your transit data, you are encouraging your community of riders and developers to work towards improving your service. Better investment in your services can translate into an increase in ridership and an increase in appreciation for your vital transit service. Developers Can Create Products for Free When you open your transit data, something great could happen. Third-party developers may be enticed to build useful mobile apps in order to help you to provide better service to your riders. And because they only use your data and their own resources, the product will likely cost you nothing. More Data for Operational Reviews In the same way that social media posts can inform you about the success or issues with your service, you can collect data from thirdparty development initiatives. As they build their products, your agency can benefit from the insight derived from their research. Discover if a route is inefficient, or if an increase in service is needed in a certain area of your operation. Benefit From the Creativity and Initiative of the Community Without having to devote funding to a technological initiative, you can reap the rewards of the work done by others. Some agencies are discovering that the creative use of their transit data is creating buzz and excitement with riders, who in turn consider public transit as an exciting transportation choice. 7

8 5. Social Media: the Free Source of Data Develop a Two-way Conversation In the past, a transit agency was limited in its ability to both send and gather information about their service. If a problem on a route were to occur, a call center would get inundated with complaints and queries. Social Media is an extremely cost-effective way to listen and speak directly with your ridership. Immediate Insight Into Service Interruptions or Problems You can tell in seconds if there s a problem with your schedule. How? Because riders have the ability to send out immediate social media updates to your various channels, you have a direct line to rider concerns and possible problems. By sending out mass information, your entire social network can hear exactly what you wish to tell them. Use This Data for Operational Reviews Having to spend hours on the street with a pen and paper polling rider opinion, social media can be used to gather useful data quickly. By assembling comments from social media, you can hear directly from riders. Learn quickly if a new initiative or schedule change is producing desired results, or if further research and changes are needed. 8

9 Conclusion: Why Integration Matters When approaching vendors of fixed route software solutions, it s important to ask how their passenger information systems integrate with back office software. The key to providing real-time trip planning tools for riders is being able to draw from real-time information with speed and accuracy. Data gathered on the bus and in the office serves as the foundation for effective passenger information systems. Some vendors may claim that they can easily provide riders with access to real-time information via web/online/internet; smartphone; SMS/text/ phone calls. However, a standalone app that isn t connected to your scheduling software, is not going to provide the service it could. Full system integration means that everything talks with everything else: all the parts are in synch. Integration also reduces down time due to technical issues when dealing with upgrades, updates and any type of IT maintenance. When new features are added in the future, you need a system that can easily be adapted. With a standalone app, riders will continually need to download new versions with each upgrade to their mobile device s operating system. This won t be an issue for an integrated Web App. There are many things to consider before approaching a vendor. But as current conditions and future trends indicate, every agency is going to need to consider how they can better communicate with their riders. And every rider is going to expect better communication from their transit agencies. You can start the conversation today. 9

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