Smart Bus Project

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | Categories:

After years of planning and procurement, design and development, AMTRAN demonstrated its Smart Bus Project in actual use on April 15.  The project was funded by a special Intelligent Transportation System grant through Congressman Bill Shuster.


Customer Benefits


For customers, the most exciting benefit is myStop.  To try it out, just click on the myStop button in the top right corner of AMTRAN's home page.


According to John Palko, AMTRAN Director of Staff and Customer Services, “myStop means that you don't have to worry about missing your bus or standing out in the rain or cold.  We'll tell you when your bus is coming.  Just click myStop on our home page.  Select your bus route then the closest bus stop, and the computer will tell you when the bus should arrive in real time.”


myStop information will also be available through your home phone or cellular phone later this summer,” adds Palko.


myStop also includes electronic signs at Penn State Altoona, Logan Valley Mall (inside and outside), the downtown Transit Center (inside and outside), and at the AMTRAN office that tell customers when the next bus should arrive in real time.


AMTRAN customers are used to the electronic signs that tell them where their bus is located on the platform at the downtown Transit Center, but now the signs will also tell them when their bus will arrive.  An additional sign inside the Transit Center lets them stay warm and comfortable until their bus arrives.


“Not knowing when or if the bus is coming is the frustrating part of public transportation,” says Eric Wolf, AMTRAN General Manager.  “myStop solves that problem.”


The Smart Bus Project also automates onboard bus stop announcements so that people with hearing disabilities can see them and people with seeing disabilities can hear them.  This new function helps to make sure that no one misses their stop.


“Keeping our customers better informed makes taking the bus more convenient,” according to Scott Cessna, AMTRAN Board Chair.  “Congressman Shuster wanted us to have this system because it usually results in increased ridership.”


The system was designed by Avail Technologies of State College.  Project management was provided by Clear View Strategies of Pittsburgh.


GPS Technology


Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology in each bus ties into a central computer that tracks the bus against its scheduled routes allowing the computer to predict when the bus will arrive at designated stops throughout the AMTRAN system.  Tied into the atomic clock at the Naval Observatory, the system also lets the driver know when they are running early or late helping the driver to stay on time.  In addition, the system alerts the dispatcher as to which buses are running early or late.


Maureen Gilbert, Director of Transportation, stated, “The entire system should run more smoothly and more on time with this new technology in place.”


The project will also improve safety.  Since bus stop announcements and destination sign changes are automated, the driver can concentrate on driving with fewer distractions.


Automatic Passenger Counting


As part of the Smart Bus Project, AMTRAN has also installed Automatic Passenger Counting on the buses that, when tied into the GPS, tells the company exactly which bus stops and trips are most and least utilized.  This information is invaluable for service planning.


Google Transit


AMTRAN will soon be offering trip planning through Google Transit as part of this technology project.