March 25, 2008 — University Transit Service riders can now track their buses.
Using the Internet, a wireless mobile device, or a cellular or regular telephone, bus riders will be able to determine how soon a bus will arrive at a given stop.
UTS has equipped its 34 buses with satellite GPS transponders that allow a computer monitor and a central dispatcher to track all the buses at any given minute — and share that information with passengers.
"The passengers will get better information about when to go to the bus stop and how long they have to wait," said Rebecca White, director of the Department of Parking and Transportation. "In the back office, it will give us better data about on-time performance, traffic patterns, how long it takes to load, speed through traffic corridors — information that is very valuable for us."
Passengers will be able to access bus arrival estimates in four different ways; online at the Parking & Transportation Web site (www.virginia.edu/parking/bus/bus.html), on a mobile wireless device, via regular or cellular telephone, and — at 20 major stops — a keypad "bus finder," according to White.
On the phone and on the Web, the passenger keys in the five-digit code assigned to each bus stop and receives estimates of bus arrival times at that stop for the next half hour. The codes are posted at the stops on the back of the bus stop sign and also available on the Parking and Transportation website.
At the stops with "bus finder" keypads, a passenger presses either a route or destination button to display the number of minutes until the next bus arrives.
The system, which refreshes itself every 15 seconds, was created by Connexionz, a New Zealand firm. It will be monitored by dispatchers who know the routes and the timetables and when and where the buses are supposed to be.
White said dispatchers will be able to adjust the system. If a bus is full, for example, a dispatcher could remove it from the prediction list, so that passengers will receive information about the next bus with vacancies coming to the stop. Dispatchers will also be able to factor in bus rerouting after basketball and football games, and can also detect if buses are bunching up on a route.
UTS buses run from 6 a.m. to 12:20 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday, noon to 3 a.m. on Saturday, and noon to 12:20 a.m. on Sunday. The arrival-prediction service will not initially be available from midnight to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, when bus service is provided by a private contractor whose buses are not yet equipped with the GPS tracking equipment, White said; she hopes to have that covered beginning in the fall.
University students and employees, who may ride the Charlottesville Transit Service buses for free by displaying their U.Va. identification cards, can also track city buses, as the city has purchased the same system. White said both transit systems share several bus stops.
White said Connexionz has installed similar systems at the University of Maryland and in Arlington, Va.
To access the system or for more information, go to http://www.virginia.edu/parking/GPS/BusLocator.html