City plans GPS tracking of all transit vehicles
By Tamara Barak, Bay City News Service
March 30, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Come August, commuters in San Francisco
may spend considerably less of their lives waiting for transit.
NextMuni, which pinpoints the location of approaching busses
and trains through a global positioning satellite system, plans
to include all of the city's transit vehicles in its service.
The NextMuni system, which is provided by Alameda company NextBus.com,
started out by tracking only Metro street car lines and the 22-Fillmore
trolley bus. On March 15, it added all street cars and electric
By August, all San Francisco transit vehicles will be online,
said Michael Smith, director of engineering for NextBus.
"People will notice a lot of changes over the next few months,"
The GPS trackers on the busses track its location back to NextMuni,
and the company then provides real-time information to commuters
through their computers, cell phones and hand-held devices. The
company is also installing 400 electronic signs at transit stations
throughout the city that will inform travelers of how soon their
bus or train will arrive.
"We take the position of the bus, along with configuration
and historical information, and we make the calculation of when
the bus will actually arrive," Smith said.
NextBus provides a similar service in other cities, including
Washington D.C. It also tracks AC Transit service in Alameda County.
"We actually reduce the time it takes to get from home to
work. Instead of waiting at a bus stop, you can wait at home and
read a newspaper, or go get a cup of coffee," Smith said.
Nextbus is also using its technology to provide San Francisco
Municipal Transportation Agency officials with data they can use
to improve on-time performance of their system, which has long
been criticized by riders.
Smith said he hopes the service will increase ridership on public
"Everyone talks about how important public transportation
is, but most people drive because it's so much quicker. If we
want people to take transit, we have to improve it," he said.
In another effort to modernize the Muni system and make it more
rider-friendly, SFMTA will begin sell its montly FastPasses online
starting April 10.
On April 2, the city will also start selling its prepaid parking
cards online. The cards are used at city parking meters.
Both the parking cards and the FastPasses will be available at
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