New Metro communication system to include real-time arrival information

Thanks to $8.4 million in federal funding made possible through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority will be updating Metro’s outdated communication system. The new system from Trapeze ITS will include automated vehicle location utilizing GPS technology, improved radio communications between buses and central dispatch, and new customer information options.

“It is critical that we replace our current outdated system,” said Marilyn Shazor, Metro’s CEO. “The new transit communications system will support our efforts to improve efficiency, enhance safety, and increase customer satisfaction.”

Metro officials expect the new system to be fully operational by late 2011 and to connect the transit agency’s 337 buses, 55 Access vehicles and supervisor vehicles to central dispatch. Once implemented, the new Trapeze ITS system will improve daily operations and emergency response coordination with police, fire and medical.

Customers will benefit most profoundly from real-time arrival and departure information that will be available at Metro’s Government Square transit hub and several other key locations throughout the city. The new real-time arrival and departure information will be available on users’ smart phones and PDAs.

The updated communication system is one of a number of upgrades the transit agency has been wanting to make including a new modernized fare payment system that have all been contingent upon available funding.  Future technological improvements are envisioned by Metro officials to improve the bus system’s operations and overall functionality, but will need the help of additional federal and/or state funding to make them reality.

  • This is excellent news!

    Having moved here only ten months ago, I’m still a Cincinnati newbie. I recently changed jobs and started commuting from Oakley to Government Square by bus, so this will become an extremely valuable enhancement to the service.

    Well done and kudos all around to the folks who got the deal done.

  • Katie

    Metro desperately needs an updated communication system, but making it available on only smart phones will not help a majority of their riders.

    I ride the Metro to work from Price Hill to Downtown and I am frequently frustrated because the buses are late, they only run once ever 45 minutes and when the schedule changes (which it has done twice in the last year), I can’t get quick information on when it will come. Their phone system does not give automated info and unless you’re calling during business hours, it’s closed.

    However, I can’t afford a smart phone and I can testify that most people I ride with can’t either. Many can’t afford cars – that’s why they ride Metro. Metro needs to make the arrival and departure information available via phone call or text message alerts. They need to cater to the people who are riding their buses.

  • Great point. Not everyone can afford a $100 a month smartphone bill. If Fifth-Third can automate and tell me how much money is in my account with a simple phone call, Metro should be able to automate a bus schedule. It takes time for the “latest” technology to get to everyone. What’s next, is Metro going to release an iPad App for riders?

    Good effort, poor execution. Make the schedule text or call-based, 24-7.

  • I think these are good points, but it’s also important to remember that Metro is trying to upgrade their woefully outdated communications system on whatever money they can leverage from state or federal sources. Maybe down the road they will be able to incorporate electronic signage at their stops that has real-time arrival information.

    The text message alert system would be beneficial it seems, and I wonder if Metro will be able to do that with this new system. I’ll look into it and get back with you, but I think it’s important we know all the information before we start throwing stones at Metro for somehow being out of touch with their ridership.

  • +1 for Randy. Great points.

  • Nathan

    Hopefully Metro will allow text alerts – I think a great majority of riders have some sort of cell phone, and I’m sure most of them can receive text messages. Great to see some progress in Cincinnati transit!

  • Hope it’s okay if I jump in to add some info on behalf of Metro.

    We are looking into text-based alerts and I do think the new transit system will help us make that possible.

    Right now we have “Commuter Alerts” and you can sign up for information on different routes (just detours and events now) that we can send to you via text or email. It’s free to sign up We also post all route changes and route schedules on our site,

    Randy hit the nail on the head – we want to do more but we are limited by budget. This new system will allow us to take great strides in the right direction.

    Thanks for the comments/feedback!

  • t-storm

    I’ve thought about this before and it seems like a great idea. What about LED signs at certain stops that let you know when the next busses are coming?

  • Joe

    This is great. I look forward to it. Previous points about txt are valid. In addition, I am glad to see metro working on attracting riders of choice while continuing to support riders of need. If they can ake the system easier to use they will attract more riders (and funding).

    When is google transit going to be enabled? It has been in pilot for 7 months now. Meanwhile it’s been live in NKY for almost 2 years! And will the new system integrate with google transit?

  • bree

    You all do realize- all of these things have been implemented in other cities for at least 5 years. I’m not talking about NY or SF either, so don’t throw that excuse at me. I am excited to see metro catch up with the times. Why has it taken so long though? Site funding, if you like, but that’s a problem because they squander all the money thrown at them. The system is incredibly inefficient and they are constantly doing things to deter potential ridership.

  • bree:

    Metro, like many other transit organizations, struggles with a steady stream of revenue sources for which to operate. Many of the grants that Metro receives requires them to do certain things with those funds (i.e. replace buses).

    With that said, many other agencies around the country have been doing this for some time, but not all have and it is good that Metro’s bus service will soon be on the list of those that do. If a terrible economy where everyone is being asked to do more with less, it is encouraging that any improvements are being made at all.

  • Patrick Newton

    Has SORTA developed a data feed to submit to Google for Google Transit? That would be a big help to see every stop on a map. Does anyone have the skills to do this for SORTA? Its free on the other end, as Google doesn’t charge its transit partners.

  • Patrick:

    Metro has been working with Google for some time to link up with GoogleTransit on Google’s mapping functions. For a variety of reasons, all of which I’m not sure, the roll out keeps getting delayed. Sit tight because it is on the way.

  • Wow, Trapeze ITS for real-time passenger alerts? This company does not have a single, successful implementation of this yet. Sure they have GPS tracking elsewhere that does work (most of the time) but this is a far cry from a full blown prediction and information sharing system described here. No big deal, kids in their dorm rooms make GPS tracking devices. I doubt this will ever work…we need something like what Boston has – NextBus.