Discuss Detroit Archives - January 2008 Bus Tracking System Idea Previous Next
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Sean_of_detroit
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Username: Sean_of_detroit

Post Number: 143
Registered: 03-2008
Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - 10:53 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

So I'm working on something on the computer today, and my fiancee is in the other room watching a show about Disney World. They mention how all of their floats and other vehicles where from Detroit, which catches my ear. They then talk about the off-road vehicles (actually GMC flatbeds). Apparently, both of these groups has a monitoring system. Pucks are carried in the road, as the vehicles pass over them a sensor on the bottom of the truck senses the puck and transmits a signal back to a monitoring area. The vehicles also have a normal driver who drives them. They mentioned how they collaborated with another Detroit company who uses this system at way stations to monitor trucks.

This idea has probably been said before, but why can't this be used for our horrible bus system? It is fairly cheap to buy and install the pucks and sensors. The information could be routed to a screen or LED Board and show arrival times. They could even be shown on maps and possibly even charge a small fee to send out wait times to home computers, cell/smart phones, or other electronic devices. Maybe for those with a bus pass, or maybe not have any fee involved. Screens could also be installed at a few main locations and terminals. Maybe utilize this in the new Rosa Parks Center, and have several small satellite terminals.

It's much cheaper than building light rail or a trolley system (although I still support those ideas too). Has this already been thought of? Is this what is going to happen with the new transit centers? It would be very nice for those routes that tell you the buses are around forty minutes apart. Basically they are saying the bus could come anytime in that forty minute window.

What do you guys think?
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Mbr
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Username: Mbr

Post Number: 383
Registered: 03-2005
Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - 11:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Why not use GPS? It's probably 1,000 times cheaper than the system you are describing, which is only useful on a small scale (ie Disneyland, weigh stations, etc.)

Check this out.
http://mbus.pts.umich.edu/
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Mbr
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Username: Mbr

Post Number: 384
Registered: 03-2005
Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - 11:18 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

This one is cooler, with maps:

http://mbus.pts.umich.edu/arri vals/routeView.php
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Detroitplanner
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Username: Detroitplanner

Post Number: 1606
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - 11:24 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Most buses have GPS already. It would be great if you could watch your bus from your home computer, then you would not have to stand on street corners forever waiting for a bus. For some reason they never moved beyond basic tracking with GPS around here. I know AATA was thinking about it, but I have yet to see any thing. Though I don't spend a lot of time out there to be honest with you.

Pucks would be incredibly expensive to maintain. Particularly in an environment where they would be exposed to road salt, heavy trucks, snow plows, careless sewer crews....

Detroit is a City, it ain't Disneyland.
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Focusonthed
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Username: Focusonthed

Post Number: 1796
Registered: 02-2006
Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - 11:33 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

http://ctabustracker.com/
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Sean_of_detroit
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Username: Sean_of_detroit

Post Number: 144
Registered: 03-2008
Posted on Wednesday, April 23, 2008 - 11:50 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Focusonthed, that's perfect.

Yeah, I don't know why I didn't think of GPS. That makes much more sense.
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Ro_resident
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Username: Ro_resident

Post Number: 312
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 8:26 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

When I was in grad school 10 years ago, I helped do an evaluation of AATA's bus operating system.

Ann Arbor's system was one of the first to integrate vehicle locating systems with GPS, transfers, automatic stop announcements, and communications into a cohesive package. There is more information here: http://www.theride.org/aos.asp

One of the things we found from the system--since AATA operated off of a master clock, all the buses displayed the same synchonized time.

The clocks helped build confidence in the reliability of the bus system.
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Craig
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Username: Craig

Post Number: 745
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 9:00 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Why not just create and then stick to a regular schedule? Other cities keep the buses & trains on time - ridiculous that it's impossible to do so here.
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Danindc
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Username: Danindc

Post Number: 4172
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 9:44 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

quote:

Why not just create and then stick to a regular schedule? Other cities keep the buses & trains on time - ridiculous that it's impossible to do so here.



It's so much harder to keep a bus on a regular schedule than a train, because of the number of variables involved in operation: traffic lights, congestion, number of stops made, and the handicapped (wheelchair loading/unloading). Frankly, I love automated bus stop announcements. Even if I'm on a route I don't know well, the announcements help me get off at the right stop.
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Craig
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Username: Craig

Post Number: 747
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 9:58 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Dan - agree re: variables related to buses. I'll admit that once I was able to afford a car I quit D-DOT, but I have vivid memories of waiting almost two hours for buses (Fenkell), only to see two or three coaches traveling together as though in a convoy.
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Danindc
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Username: Danindc

Post Number: 4174
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 10:05 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

^^^Yup. One of the bigggest complaints about DC Metrobuses is the "stacking", especially during rush hours. Metro is trying to fix this by shortening a couple of the longer routes (one route is almost 10 miles long).

Unfortunately, since buses in Detroit (SMART and DDOT) have to travel such long routes, they become even more unpredictable, as the "errors" from the various variables compound along the trip. "Making the buses run better" is probably one of the better arguments for a light rail system.
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Mackinaw
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Username: Mackinaw

Post Number: 4669
Registered: 02-2005
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 10:37 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

You can check AATA statuses on their website before you head outside, which is kind of helpful. A few bus stops have little screens telling you how many minutes its been since the last one passed.

Even if the Detroit buses got off schedule, it would not be a big deal if they were frequent enough, like every 10 minutes. To my knowledge, the closest we get to that is Woodward at peak times, right? The problem is, you can't spend money making a bus more frequent in the hopes that more people will then ride it. You need some strong demand signals like overflowing buses before you do that.
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Craig
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Username: Craig

Post Number: 749
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 10:41 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

^Thus the motivation for creating designated tracks for buses (saw this in Baltimore)? i.e. save on the infrastructure but provide the relatively contained & predictable environment of "rails."
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Mackinaw
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Username: Mackinaw

Post Number: 4672
Registered: 02-2005
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 10:46 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Pittsburgh has bus lanes (at least in the Oakland borough).
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Townonenorth
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Username: Townonenorth

Post Number: 27
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 12:06 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I'd love to see some kind of bus tracking for both DOT and SEMTA bus lines regionally. I know that I've seen a lot of people looking down the street hopefully looking for a bus. I'm sure it would be helpful for them to actually KNOW when the bus is coming. Maybe a simple application for a cell phone would be good, since it seems that most people have one these days.
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Focusonthed
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Username: Focusonthed

Post Number: 1799
Registered: 02-2006
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 12:44 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I can't think of a single major city that is able to keep it's buses on time. It's just not possible.

Evenly-spaced intervals should be the goal during peak periods, which is what Detroit can't seem to get working.
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Professorscott
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Username: Professorscott

Post Number: 1227
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 12:51 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Woodward is 8 minutes most of the day. Gratiot is going to a consistent 12 minute schedule, Dexter is 12 minutes most of the day. Seven Mile will be 10 minutes at AM/PM peak, and SMART Gratiot is 10 minutes at certain peak hours. I don't think there's anything else that frequent.

DDOT knows where the buses are, if you call 933-1300 (and press 0 for a human) they can tell you when to expect the next bus at a given location, based on where the bus actually is, not the schedule. SMART does not have any such kind of tracking.

In my experience most DDOT buses are +/- 5 minutes most of the day, but there are exceptions. The major SMART lines are too long, it just can't be done.

SEMTA has not existed by that name for a while...
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Professorscott
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Username: Professorscott

Post Number: 1228
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 12:55 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Sorry, forgot - before I get corrected - Grand River is also 12 minutes most of the day.
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Mackinaw
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Username: Mackinaw

Post Number: 4675
Registered: 02-2005
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 1:53 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks professorscott. I admit I've never looked at a DDOT schedule closely, although I'd probably use it if I had stayed at Wayne State for more than a year. Eight minutes is a reasonable interval. AATA goes every 15 minutes on most of the major spoke routes in Ann Arbor...more like 30 minutes into the evening. Washtenaw Ave. gets upped to about every 7 or 8 minutes during the afternoon rush hour, but generally I've had to wait five minutes, at least, on average on that route.

I don't think DDOT is as much of a joke as some people make it out to be. Anti-bus sentiment usually wins out around here, and it really colors people's observations.
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Townonenorth
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Username: Townonenorth

Post Number: 28
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 1:56 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

"SEMTA has not existed by that name for a while..."

OOPS. Stuck in the past as it were. Shows just how much I ride the buses these days.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 2206
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 2:10 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

This thread reminds me of a line from Professor Peter Schickle's (of P.D.Q. Bach fame)"Classical rap"--"you wait half an hour for a bus, or more 'cause they like to travel in gangs of four"
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Jjaba
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Username: Jjaba

Post Number: 6396
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 2:26 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Portland, Oregon has a Stop Number at every bus stop. You dial 503-238-RIDE, punch in your bus stop number on your cell phone, and it tells you when to expect the next bus on any line stopping there.

Buses in Portland keep to a good printed schedule and racks of them are available all over the 3-country Tri-Met service area.
Ditto for light rail and streetcar service.

80% of Portland riders have monthly passes, issued through employers who pay payroll taxes for transit. Only 20% of revenues come from the fare box. Thus, trains and streetcars have no fare conductors, and the bus drivers move people in and out fast, with a quick nod to see the passes.

On frequent service lines, headways are 9-12 minutes daytime, up to 30 minutes until about 1am. All lines shut down for a few hrs. at night.
A large swath of downtown is called "FARELESS SQUARE", all transit services are FREE. So, passengers going short distances can take any regular unit for free day and night in the center of town.

This is very handy when 25,000 attend a rock concert at an arena and use the perimeter park and ride FREE parking lots to get home.

It is a very good system.
jjaba.
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Craig
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Username: Craig

Post Number: 750
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 2:55 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Mack - maybe Fenkell was/is too much of a backwater for the level of service provided elsewhere, but I did a lot of looking at my watch waiting for that damn bus. They didn't call it "the iron pimp" for nothing.
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Supersport
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Username: Supersport

Post Number: 11787
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 8:47 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

DDOT has GPS, got it about a 1 1/2 ago. It has been my experience that the buses have been on a much tighter schedule since. On one trip, the driver pulled over near Washington Blvd, just short of Capitol Park, to call dispatch and inform them he was a few minutes ahead of his scheduled time, then proceeded to Capitol Park to drop everybody off.

While I'm sure some lines may be less dependable, I have seen steady improvements the last few years. In addition, about a year ago they implemented ticket refunds. Before, if all you had was $2, then that's what your $1.50 ride would cost you. Now, they issue a .50 ticket voucher to put towards your next ride.

Lastly, my last few trips have been on the new/newer buses the city has been implementing. The comfort, views, and cleanliness are top notch in my book. Can't even recall the last time I actually walked downtown, as DDOT has won back my confidence.
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Sean_of_detroit
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Username: Sean_of_detroit

Post Number: 151
Registered: 03-2008
Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 9:25 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Nice. Does anyone know any details or features that the Rosa Parks Center will have?

____________

Something else that is interesting is that Greektown is going to be offering free People Mover tokens soon (I think). There appear to be advertisements for this in/near the new skywalk. Free parking and free people mover fair? This should be an awesome incentive to build on those surface lots. Especially sense Ilitch appears to be muscling many of them out (hopefully they end up developing some of those lots when their done). The fact that the smaller lots chose sale over development leads me to believe they never had any desire or means to develop them.

Real Estate investments. Where they just waiting around for a buyer?

PS: Spread the word that Greektown offers free parking and people mover tokens. Lets see these lots developed. Garages, mini lots, and some park n' locks are okay, but to many look bad. I have no pity for the ones who refuse to invest a penny to do basic landscaping and up keep (snow shoveling).

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