How to make public transit popular

One Canadian city shows how smart technology can help get people out of their cars and onto city buses and other forms of public transportation.

As many cities struggle to get their residents out of their cars and into buses and other forms of public transit, one city in Canada has provided a useful case study.

Public transportation usage is at a record high in the Canadian city of Brampton. Ridership increased 18 percent in 2011, tripling the national average of five percent in the first six months of last year, according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association. All told, 16.3 million riders made use of Brampton Transit in 2011, 2.5 million more than in 2010, which had already seen a 12 percent increase in ridership.

The uptick is largely due to the introduction of Brampton's bus rapid transit (BRT) system, called Züm. Xerox helped the city launch a SmartBus system to work with its new BRT system.

“Making public transportation more predictable and easier to use makes it more popular,” said Alex Milojevic, senior manager of Business Strategies at Brampton Transit. “Xerox installed systems that our riders now depend on and that we use to provide award-winning service.”

Brampton Transit is a pay-as-you-board transit system for the City of Brampton, located in the Greater Toronto Area. The transit service operates 258 conventional buses and 41 rapid transit buses.

The city's SmartBus system includes:

  • Electronic message signs displaying schedule and real-time bus information at terminals and on-board LED signs showing next stop information.
  • Interactive Voice Response, providing telephone access to real-time bus schedule and route information.
  • Next Ride using SmartTraveler Plus, which gives real-time schedule and route information via web access, mobile web access, email and SMS text.
  • A Mobile Data Terminal, allowing operators and on-road supervisors to communicate with dispatch centers through text messaging and vehicle diagnostics.
  • On-board security cameras
  • Automated Passenger Counting, which provides 98 percent accuracy of the number of riders using bus fleets and routes.

Thanks to its new system, Brampton Transit was awarded the 2011 Distinction Award for innovation, excellence, and leadership by Canada's Government Technology Exhibition and Conference. Perhaps the success of Brampton's efforts can spur other cities to develop similar, user-friendly public transit options.

Photo: Brampton Transit

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