University transit lights fire with advanced technology
Wired tech-savvy students eager for real time connectivity
By Scott Conroy
Given the rise in gas prices and increased focus on environmental sustainability, public transportation has seen an increase in popularity. With this increased demand comes the need to provide more convenience and ease of use for students planning to use those services. Nowhere is this more prevalent than at the college and university level.
Many transportation directors wish their operations were more efficient and utilized by a greater number of students since growing enrollment numbers make it difficult to provide adequate parking on campus. Students are increasingly tech-savvy and demand services that keep them informed and wired. They are also more aware of the environmental impact of transportation and the need for greener services to offset emissions and resource use. It is imperative that colleges and universities rise to the task to sustain and grow their transportation systems.
Many universities are looking for technology that can reduce their carbon footprint, provide students and faculty with real time information about their bus schedules, and provide a safe transportation experience. To meet these goals, institutions have sought to implement technological advancements that can ultimately change the way students perceive their campus transit service. One method for doing this is to outsource transit operations to experienced professionals who can quickly implement operations that make an effective impact within the university community.
One university that is constantly working to improve its transportation services is Rutgers University. Together with First Transit, Rutgers operates 50 buses that transport more than six million passengers annually as part of its university transit system. All 50 buses operate on bio-fuel, which burns cleaner and produces fewer emissions than gasoline or diesel fuel. In addition as part of the contract, First Transit provides 40 buses with 2010 engines that meet emissions standards.
In addition to environmental benefits of the campus transit buses, Rutgers and First Transit have added technology that makes the service more convenient for its passengers and enhances their experience while riding or waiting for the bus. At all bus stops in and around the campus, students have access to Next Bus technology.
This technology utilizes an LED sign located at each stop, which provides passengers with an alert showing them the estimated time of arrival for the next bus. In addition, the Talking Bus System alerts passengers to the upcoming stops by using a Global Positioning System (GPS). Once the bus reaches close proximity of a stop, an automated voice informs passengers via the bus’s speakers. The GPS equipment also contributes to greater bus safety, as dispatchers know the location of every bus at any specific moment.
Transit efficiency at universities is crucial to maintaining an increasing ridership. At First Transit-operated Louisiana State and North Carolina State Universities, riders can pinpoint where and when their bus will arrive at their stop. The universities use technology called Translōc® , which allows riders to view the location of their bus and where it is traveling on campus through their smart phones, computers, iPads and other electronic devices by logging into www.transloc.com. This device can reduce a rider’s wait time at a bus stop and provide them assurance of where their bus is on campus.
Technology has become a great asset in providing efficient and reliable transportation services throughout many transit markets. As transit services have progressed in various cities, the use of technology for university and campus transportation has evolved to provide the same benefits. With the success many colleges and universities are seeing by outsourcing their transportation service, it is a strong possibility that many more will follow to enhance its transit services for their students.
Scott Conroy serves as Director of Operations for First Transit, Cincinnati, OH.