How a Modern Transit Data Platform Can Improve Bus Service

Modernizing the tools used by bus dispatchers and inspectors to enable rapid service adjustments.

The Problem

One of the reasons that bus service doesn’t meet rider expectations is that the tools used by bus dispatchers and inspectors are not accurate enough about bus locations and disruptions to allow bus administrators to make rapid service adjustments.

Bus inspectors have a challenging job as they have to coordinate vehicles in traffic rather than over fixed rails. They need to make sure buses keep an even distance from each other along assigned routes, in spite of many variables that come with managing bus service, including traffic, weather, and human factors. Unfortunately, bus inspectors don’t always have access to modern software tools due to under-investment in bus operations and technology.

How Does TransitOPS Help?

Transit agencies with a modern transit data platform can use publicly accessible (open-source) bus dispatching software that is accurate and affordable. For example, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority [MBTA] has provided an application called “Skate” that other transit agencies can use which enables bus dispatchers to view and respond to operational data on moderately priced tablet computers.

The MBTA is currently Skate's largest user. At the MBTA, over 200 bus inspectors, trainers and bus maintenance staff use Skate in the field to manage a fleet of more than 1,000 buses on 170 bus routes.

Skate costs transit agencies less than five thousand dollars in application hosting costs each year, far less than comparable alternatives. Skate can be deployed in the cloud or on-premises with commodity Linux servers and does not require any licensing fees.

The Big Picture

Achieving a modern transit data platform helps riders by providing them with access to more accurate information and empowering staff with innovative low-cost tools to improve service.

The TransitOPS team was directly involved in building the modern transit data platform used by the MBTA and the planning and executing many innovative tools for riders and operators — including Skate.

If you are interested in how TransitOPS can improve bus service in your city or agency, let’s talk soon!