GPS keeps track of buses

A Colorado bus operator is using real-time GPS software to help keep tabs on vehicle location.

Boulder's transportation department has hired wireless data network provider Intuicom Inc. to fit 13 area buses with an Automatic Vehicle Location System. The buses are run by Special Transit (www.specialtransit.org), a nonprofit organization providing door-to-door transportation for elderly, disabled, low-income and rural residents of Boulder. The project cost $16,000.

Intuicom's SmartGPS Tracker system uses transceivers fixed to buses to track and pinpoint buses' locations on a central server. The server uses GPS software to plot the buses' whereabouts in real time on a computerized map, thereby enabling Special Transit staff members to better manage its buses.

"Intuicom's services and GPS system have increased our efficiency, reduced our reliance on radio communications and given us better control for the spacing of our vehicles," said Steve Blacksher, product manager at Special Transit. "This allows our dispatchers to see right where all our buses are on the system and for them to know where to have [drivers] slow down, speed up or add additional capacity buses if necessary."

Smart Transit runs a fixed-route shuttle service with no set schedule, but buses run 10 to 12 minutes apart. The system handles about 1 million passengers per year.

"The way they were doing this before was with a dispatcher who operated a radio and had a big static map of the town before him," said Darran Bornn, project manager at Intuicom. "Dispatch would have to estimate where buses were, to a certain degree based on feedback from drivers, and would plot by hand on the map bus locations and be forced to estimate where problems such as bottlenecks might occur."

Bornn said similar systems were operating on Denver buses and snowplows in Los Alamos, N.M.

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