The city is paying $500k to let people track the location of city buses electronically, Henry Graff reported for NBC-29 on Friday. In doing so, they intend to solve two problems: chronically-late buses and would-be bus riders not knowing when their bus will be there. They’ll be outfitting 25 bus stops with touch-screen displays to track the buses’ progress but, better still, it’ll be possible to track buses via the web.
12 thoughts on “CTS’ Planned GPS Upgrade”
I wonder where the 25 stops with touch screen displays will be?
It would be more correct to say that the city is paying $500K of the federal government’s money for this project. According to the linked article, most of the money for this project will be coming from the ubiquitous grants that seem to drive every boondoggle around here. Not that I think that this is a bad idea, but I’m unclear as to why it will cost half a million bucks. It’s not like GPS technology is exotic anymore.
Tracking buses via the Web is only useful if you have some sort of Mussolini-like fetish with bus schedules. We folks on the street want to know if that ol’ number 4 is coming in on time and most of us do not have cellular modems with our laptops out at the bus stations.
That said, I hope they get a touch screen at the bus stop behind Cabell Hall on JPA…
I just stumbled onto this blog, and I’m definitely impressed with the content thus far.
The bus GPS system will be awesome! The only downside is that 25 out of 400 bus stops isn’t very many. Plus, I’ll probably be moving before they get it all up and running. :(
It may not be particularly useful to many of the people who currently use CTS, it’s all but essential to the very people who aren’t riding the buses now.
Imagine that you’re Joe or Jane Whitecollar, one of the thousands of people who work along the bus line in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. You’re thinking that you might want to give CTS a whirl. But where you need to get is important. You can’t afford to just stand around next to a bus stop sign for half an hour. And you’ve heard that the buses can’t be relied on, so while the schedule says that the bus is due at six after the hour, who knows?
But, wait, what’s this? The website shows the position of that bus right now. And it reports that the bus is running one minute behind, so it’s due in twelve minutes. Since you can see the bus stop from your window, you know it’ll only take a minute to get there. So you’re good to work for another 5-10 minutes and then you can safely catch the bus to get where you’re going.
I was in this position many times when I was a PVCC student. The bus would routinely arrive a few minutes early and leave immediately. So I’d miss the bus. It drove me nuts — it made it tough to count on public transit to get to school. Eventually I got in the habit of waiting until a few minutes after it was due and, if it didn’t show, I’d run back home, hop on my motorcycle, and ride to class.
If adequately promoted, this could considerably increase ridership rates among people who normally drive.
Yes, it will be helpful for people to know how much more of their time will be wasted waiting on CTS.
But it does not address the problem of route scheduling inadequacies. People are not going to waste the better part of an hour getting somewhere on a bus, when they can drive there in a fraction of that time! Like from Downtown to Fashion Square/Rio. Why do those who keep extolling CTS fail to see this??
I use CTS. Believe me, I speak from experience.
OK, I will concede this one. The ability to track buses via the web will benefit those of us who are internet-enabled AND have a sight-line to a bus stop (as well as those of us with Mussolini-like fetishes with bus schedules).
But seriously, you are correct, Waldo. Folks will use the web tracking. i could see it being useful while in the library (internet-enabled) and wondering how long one can hang out inside and read before having to dash out to catch a (probably late) bus.
The Chville bus system in 2006 cost $4,000,000 to operate and only brought in 400K in fares. So, let’s go ahead and spend 6.5 million on a new center that is a block over and lose more money. Hey how about 500K for a new GPS system. The bus will get there when it gets there, so how is this going to help anything? What a complete waste of $ all the way around. This is your tax dollars at work. I mean, can people lok at this and say, wow, this sounds like such a good plan?
I see that you’ve failed to read any of the other comments, JC. :)
It still doesn’t make any sense. Everytime you see these big huge buses blowing by, ther is maybe 1 or 2 people on them. But, if people think that spending millions to get back a few bucks is a good idea, then so be it. Everybody has that right to make decsions, whether they are smart, or in this case stupid.
Some day I’ll set up a website for long-term bets of local interest. For instance, you and I could set up a 1:1 bet on whether this modification to CTS would bear fruit, with the two of us agreeing on the charity that would receive the proceeds. The wager would be on ridership increases on CTS. I’d bet that ridership would increase by 33% within two years of the date that this new system went into use. You’d bet that it would increase no more than 5%. Two years later, we’d revisit it and see who won.
Long Bets does exactly this, but it’s meant for longer-term bets of national interest. I’m not sure they’d be real interested in you and I betting about CTS ridership rates. :)
I’ve just taken a job downtown, and I’m really enjoying riding the bus. It’s going to be part of my commute everyday, GPS system or not.
I’ve lived where I live in the JPA area for two years, and I didn’t really notice the buses driving past. I sort of tuned them out, and always wondered why they bothered running them with so few passengers.
The thing is, it’s important to take that question and turn it around. Why wasn’t I riding the bus? So, over the past four months, I’ve been trying it out, and as I said, I’m really enjoying it. It’s becoming part of my ritual, and I love the feeling that I live in an actual city. I’ve also been taking my daughter with me. One time I took her to a playgroup downtown, and when we got there, the other mothers (I was the only dad…) looked at me like I had six heads for taking public transportation. I wonder if the GPS system will be enough to overcome what I think is the real obstacle to increased ridership: social stigma.
Is CTS perfect? No, of course not. The buses are not always on time, but that’s okay. I have my iPod, and wait patiently for the bus to Arrive.
One time, a van showed up instead of a bus. That didn’t seem so bad because there was only one other passenger anyway.
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