IndyGo getting closer to providing real-time bus info

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In the age of GPS systems and smart phones, it seems natural that city bus users could track the arrival of their next ride in real time.  

That technology hasn’t hit Indianapolis yet, but IndyGo CEO Mike Terry said it’s on its way. ETA: this fall.

Terry said this week that IndyGo will have digital signs at downtown stops that show when the next bus is arriving, and passengers throughout the city will be able to check their phones or home computers for next-bus information.

Real-time information is becoming standard in public transit, IndyGo spokesman Bryan Luellen said. “It’s a great way to attract new riders and maintain riders.”

Portland’s TriMet and Pittsburgh’s Tri Delta Transit are among the urban transit systems that already offer real-time information.

IndyGo laid the technological groundwork in 2006 with the installation of a GPS system that IndyGo uses internally to track buses. Riders can call the IndyGo customer service center to find out whether a bus is on time, but so far there aren’t any other ways to get the information.

That will change with IndyGo’s GPS software upgrade, funded with two federal grants worth a combined $866,000, Luellen said.

The software upgrade by Trapeze Group, a global firm that specializes in transportation management, will enable several new functions aimed at customers, Luellen said.

IndyGo users will be able to send a text message to the system with the unique five-digit ID number found on each bus-stop sign and receive a reply text with the next-bus arrival time, Luellen said. The real-time information will also be available through an automated voice system and Google Maps, which IndyGo already uses for trip planning, he said.

In addition, IndyGo will make the vehicle-location data available to anyone who wants to create their own smart-phone application, Luellen said.

In a second phase of upgrades next year, IndyGo plans to set up mobile payment options and upgrade its website, Luellen said.

Indianapolis International Airport last year rolled out real-time information for its parking lot shuttles, part of an effort to ramp up parking revenue in the face of competition from off-site parking firm TheFastPark.

Each economy-lot shelter has a sign that displays the number of minutes to wait for the next two shuttles, and the airport recently installed a 55-inch screen in the Ground Transportation Center with a map of the bus route and the location of each bus in the network.

“Although waits are very short at the airport, the information the system provides to passengers provides some peace of mind, especially for those arriving in the economy lot who are focused on a scheduled departure time for a flight out,” airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini said.

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