The Transit Authority
By Lance Wilber
People Mover, the Municipality of Anchorage transit system, outlined a 10-year plan in 2004 to take advantage of intelligent transportation systems and upgrade technology. Working with AVAIL Technologies, Inc. as the systems integrator, the municipality implemented several ITS projects including new scheduling and dispatching software for both the fixed-route system and the paratransit system, installed Mobile Display Computers (MDCs) on both systems, and replaced the Interactive Voice Recording (IVR) system.
This effort culminated with the release of BusTracker which allows passengers to track where the bus is along its route and obtain the estimated time it will arrive at specific stops, and the installation of new fareboxes on the fixed-route system.
In 2011, Anchorage selected GFI Genfare, now SPX Genfare, to provide Odyssey validating fareboxes on its fleet of 52 fixed-route buses. Simultaneously, the system installed a Ticket Vending Machine (TVM) and purchased Productive Solutions point of sale software for pass inventory and sales transactions. The new fareboxes take advantage of magnetic stripe and smartcard technology to provide various pass and fare types. The $1.2 million project rolled out in June 2012 with a strong public education component.
We knew this type of fare payment would be a huge change for our riders. It was important we educate the public to ensure a smooth transition. Genfare helped set up demonstration fareboxes and sample ride tickets, and our staff went to the community to familiarize riders with the new product through hands-on demonstrations at the university, employment sites, homeless shelters, and transit facilities. The campaign also included interior and exterior bus advertising, posters, brochures, social marketing and use of news media.
The benefits of the new system include:
Improved passenger counts
Expanded passenger fare categories
Validating all coin and currency deposited in the farebox
Rejecting all foreign currency, coupons, and game tokens
Recognition of valid university ID cards
Use of controlled pass stock that are very difficult to forge
Decreased boarding times with use of magnetic and smart media
Improved inventory control
Improved revenue accounting
The University of Alaska Anchorage has long provided transit benefits to its students, faculty and staff, and was quick to integrate student ID cards with the new fareboxes. Each semester the university provides a list of valid IDs to ensure only currently enrolled and employed people can use their ID cards for free rides. This interface was a very important component of the farebox project.
Productive Solutions software provides point of sale technology and streamlines the sales process. The system reads the magnetic information on passes and encoded smartcard media. In addition, the software tracks inventory in multiple locations and produces ID cards for reduced fare eligibility.
The TVM was installed in our main transit hub, giving passengers a convenient option to purchase one and 30-day passes and multi-ride tickets as well as the ability to load smartcards. The TVM allows riders to purchase fare media during times outside of customer service hours, without aid of department staff.
Installing technology is not without its bumps and bruises. It requires a skilled, dedicated staff in all areas of the industry — from operations to maintenance to customer service and information technology. The end result though is enhanced reporting. We are very pleased with the new fareboxes. We are able to reconcile farebox deposits with accuracy and we are seeing a 10-percent increase in farebox revenues. BR
Lance Wilber serves as public transportation director for the City of Anchorage, AK.