See you at the bus stop

How often are you near a bus stop and trying to guess whether it's worth waiting for the next one or just hoofing it? This happens to me all the time. Partially because it's hard to tell if you have just missed the bus or if it's just about to come - but that's only if you are actually blessed with knowing the schedule.

More often I am already downtown, and in a bit of a hurry. Knowing when the next bus is will make me much more likely to ride. Probably even more than the fact that it's free. Which is why I was so excited to read about Chapel Hill Transit implementing a new system to display this information at bus stops.

Chapel Hill Transit is preparing to issue a request for bids on a new high-tech system that will give transit staff and riders a wealth of information about how the buses move through their routes.

Among other things, it will let riders at certain stops know whether their bus has just left or whether it will be along in three minutes.


while the system sounds kinda cool and all, does anyone else think this might be a frivolous expense given the town's fiscal woes?

it said in the CHNews that this was being paid for with grant$ but what is the expense to the town? I trust the town will be responsible for
the year-to-year expenses such as maintenance and repairs, etc?

Without knowing anything about these systems there is no way of knowing whether or not there will be year-to-year maintenance expenses. More than likely, those expenses will be less than is currently paid for the complaint desk personnel, reduced printing expenses, etc.

Not sure what bids Chapel Hill will get from which companies, but when I lived in San Francisco several years back, a few of the Muni bus lines had recently implemented a trial system by that thing was a total livesaver. Not only were there digital readouts at the stops that said "Next bus, 3 minutes" or "Next bus, 21 minutes", but you could always check the website and get scheduling info from any computer or internet-enabled cell phone. It was definitely a huge incentive to ride the bus. If I was at work, I could check the web site and decide whether I needed to make my way to the bus stop within the next 5 minutes. If I was at a bar or club late at night, I could check my phone and decide whether to catch an upcoming bus or stay around longer or maybe call a cab if no bus was coming anytime soon. In my opinion, one of the biggest barriers to people using public transportation is the unpredictability/scheduling factor. People don't like to wait if they think they might wind up waiting forever. If Chapel Hill is as committed to the bus system as they seem to be, they should spend whatever it takes to get a top-notch scheduling system of this sort. My guess is that the both the overall utility and the ridership numbers of the public transportation system will surge in this high-tech, highly-internet-connected community.

Tim, that system sounds wonderful! It would certainly enable occasional users to catch a bus more easily.

I'd love something like this if it's cost effective. But given that the transportation is free, waiting a half an hour or so (or taking an earlier bus because I have a time crunch and they might be behind schedule) every other time hasn't bothered me too much.

Over a million bucks so that a few riders in one small town will know when the bus will pull up to a stop? Just one small example of why our federal budget is so bloated. It's not free, folks. We all pay for this sort of frivolity. This does sound very cool and useful, but wouldn't this money be better spent for education, health care, medical research, or something else more important?

Rather than invest in hardware for all of these bus stops and the maintainance that requires, they should invest in a little bit of software and put out the schedules in electronic form. If I can consult my cell phone for the route schedule, I should know that the bus is coming in five minutes. This could be as simple as putting out each route schedule as a plain text file.
If they already know when each bus has reached each stop, then they could just put that on the web.
All of this makes more sense to me than wiring the stops themselves.

you can get bus schedules off the town of chapel hill web site. The site is kinda cool. you can re-new libary books and find out about up coming council meatings there too.

Problem is buses don't always manage to keep to the schedules. Anyone who has ever ridden the TTA at rush hour will tell you this is the case.

I'm glad to see Chapel Hill is very progressive and cutting-edge about its transit services. Maybe once this system is up and running, and if it works well, TTA will follow suit by installing a compatible system, making TTA buses show up on the Chapel Hill signs as well. I'd like to see them at major stops in Raleigh, too; it would be particularly helpful at Moore Square and at NCSU on Hillsborough street. I don't think I've seen a single on-time bus on Hillsborough St., ever. Not one.


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