Coming Soon in Edmonton: Track the Bus on Your iPhone

The fine folks in Edmonton will soon be able to track where their bus is by using their iPhone. City council just approved a $3.4 million pilot project to equip 50 buses in September 2012.

Users with an iPhone will be able to track where their bus is, as such programs have been successful in other cities.

Coun. Don Iveson strongly supports the scheme, saying automatic vehicle location has worked well when he used it in other cities.

“It pays for itself because it makes the system more navigable for riders and attracts more riders.”

If the project is successful, transit officials will suggest expanding it to the rest of Edmonton’s 959 buses within the next five years, Stolte said.

The price of equipping the whole fleet is an estimated $32.7 million.

When savings in transit operations are taken into account, it would cost about $2 million a year to run, although the technology might also reduce the need for extra buses and other material.

That price was too high for Coun. Kerry Diotte, who voted against the proposal.

“I’m very skeptical, because this is a lot of money,” he said. “If we end up spending $32 million on this, I would say the money can be better spent.”

St. Albert in Alberta has a GPS pilot project in place, which will see their buses fitted and ready in time by May. The systems they are using are from a Vancouver-based GPS company WebTech Wireless. Now, if only Vancouver could get its act together and put something like this in place. The city has an archaic way of dealing with transit fares. Called the “Honour System”, people are allowed on buses and Skytrain/Canada Line cars without passing any turnstiles or showing tickets. This proof-of-payment method is soon being replaced by contact-less payment options.

We’ve already covered similar iPhone GPS stories, such as for cabbies and passengers. For this program in Edmonton to work, it would require everyone to have either an iPhone or another smartphone. But it’s not just about tracking the bus on the iPhone. GPS allows for more accurate arrival times, which makes it easier on passengers, resulting in more bus ridership.

[Edmonton Journal via @StephenHoltzman]

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