Transit unveils new technology for bus riders [St. Joseph News-Press (MO)]
(St. Joseph News-Press (MO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A five-year technology project at St. Joseph Transit was unveiled to community leaders at a ribbon-cutting Wednesday afternoon.
The $850,000 in upgrades are aimed at customer service, with an end goal to make the bus rider's experience more convenient and reliable, said Mary Gaston, general manager at St. Joseph Transit. She said oftentimes the most frustrating experience for riders is not knowing exactly when buses will arrive.
"Anything you can do to make the ride more convenient for people helps," she said. " ... It's been a tremendous benefit to our customers and our employees."
With the new system, riders who board at the Downtown Transit Center, Hy-Vee or North Belt Walmart, can now consult a monitor that displays arrival and departure times for each bus and its route. There's also an LED screen on each of the 20 public buses that announces upcoming intersections, stops and the estimated time of arrival. Ms. Gaston said the display uses both voice and text alerts in order to accommodate visually and hearing impaired passengers.
In addition, riders who wish to request a deviation from the scheduled route can now do so online at www.stjoetransit.info. After the pickup is scheduled, the rider will receive a reminder phone call the evening before, as well as 15 to 20 minutes before the bus arrives.
"That keeps people from standing out longer than they need to," Ms. Gaston said.
The upgrades benefited bus drivers, as well. Each bus is now equipped with a mobile data computer called "Ranger," which provides turn-by-turn directions for each scheduled route. It also reminds drivers how long they need to stay at each stop, to ensure that if they arrive early, they will wait for people who expect the bus at a particular time.
The "Ranger" also provides dispatch an up-to-the-minute location of each bus, its speed and the direction it's traveling.
Andy Clements, assistant director of Public Works & Transportation, said funding for the upgrades came from the 2008 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The city was not responsible for any matching funds.
It's the first capital funding, he added, that has been given to St. Joseph Transit in eight years.
"We're very thankful for that," he said, "and I'm sure our riders are thankful, too."
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