DCTA to offer riders new tool

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Denton County Transportation Authority passengers will soon have access to real-time travel information to assist them during their daily travels on the local transit service.

DCTA’s board of directors recently approved a contract with Strategic Mapping for an integrated intelligent transportation system, to be called “Where’s My Ride?”

The service will provide passengers with predictive arrival information for the next bus or train at a passenger’s particular stop location through a mobile application, text message, automated phone message or through the DCTA website. DCTA anticipates the service will be available in late 2013.

“Real-time passenger information has become more and more common in transit mostly among larger more well-funded agencies,” said Jarod Varner, vice president of transit operations. “Dallas Area Rapid Transit has a similar product they developed in-house, and we learned a lot from them.”

Varner said the DCTA staff stays up on industry trends and has been researching this one for a while. The staff has also gleaned information from DART to help figure out what type of system DCTA would implement and how much it would cost.

After staff members were comfortable with what the project would look like, requests for information were sent out to the industry to get a feel for what could be provided to DCTA. This helped shape the final proposal, which, after competitive bidding, DCTA hired Strategic Mapping to provide.

“Where’s My Ride?” will use location data provided by a global positioning device mounted inside each DCTA Connect bus and A-train railcar.

That information will be integrated with the operator login information (including the route, run and destination sign code) and will then be transmitted wirelessly to a server using onboard cellular equipment.

This server will integrate location and login information with schedules and map files to give predictive arrival information to riders. Passengers can subscribe to specific routes through the system so that alerts can be automatically generated based on individual preferences.

The project will cost about $940,000, Varner said, with a good portion of the funding coming from federal funds including American Reinvestment Recovery Act money and a local match from sales tax revenue.

“We found a couple of pots of money that will allow us to get more bang for our buck,” Varner said. “We’re trying to be good stewards of taxpayer money and we feel like we found a vendor who can do a number of things to enhance the customer experience all in one project.”

In addition to the “Where’s My Ride?” system, DCTA has also partnered with DART and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority in developing Go Pass, a regional mobile ticketing application. The Go Pass app will allow passengers to purchase transit passes via smartphone for any of the three transit agencies. The app is expected to go live in the fall.

The two new initiatives will be integrated so passengers will be able to plan and pay for transit trips from a single mobile application, officials said.

DCTA president Jim Cline said the new tools will make riding either the train or bus system easier and more comfortable.

“If you’re standing at a bus stop and our buses are coming every 30 minutes or so and you’re not sure exactly when it’s coming, if you can get on your smartphone or get a text … it makes you more comfortable,” Cline said. “The hardest transit trip is the first one, so when a rider is thinking of making a trip that gives him the option to really feel comfortable, and regular riders, it can help plan their trip.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is blewis@dentonrc.com .


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