A Steamboat Springs Transit bus makes a stop in heavy traffic downtown. The city is adding a new GPS tracking system to the buses that will allow passengers to view the location of the buses in real time.

Photo by Scott Franz

A Steamboat Springs Transit bus makes a stop in heavy traffic downtown. The city is adding a new GPS tracking system to the buses that will allow passengers to view the location of the buses in real time.

New GPS system will allow riders to track buses in Steamboat Springs

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Transit sees strong winter ridership

Steamboat Springs Transit buses this winter drove 308,814 miles, a distance that is equivalent of 12.4 trips around the globe.

Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said the mileage was achieved by the local and regional bus service, and amounted to 23,819 hours of service.

The local free bus service in Steamboat carried 686,107 passengers this winter, which was a 5 percent gain over last year.

The regional service carried 11,910 passengers.

— Bus riders in Steamboat Springs are about to find that their smartphones are about to get handier.

Steamboat Springs Transit is moving ahead with a technology upgrade that will allow riders and dispatchers to track buses in real time on the devices and via computers.

The bus service recently contracted with RouteMatch to install a new GPS tracking system in all 21 of the buses in the city's fleet.

Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said the system will benefit bus riders and the staff who run the regional, paratransit and local bus lines.

After the system is installed and tested this summer, riders will be able to use smartphones as soon as this winter to figure out where exactly the next bus is and what time it will arrive at a certain stop.

Flint said the technology will be especially useful in a place like Steamboat where it can be tough to stand outside on cold winter days waiting for buses that may be running late.

New QR codes at stops also can be scanned by visitors to pull up the live map of the city's transit system.

“A vast majority of the phone calls we get are from people wondering when the next bus arrives,” Flint said.

He said the new GPS system will have operational and safety benefits, as well.

Dispatchers will be able to see in real time where buses are and how they're progressing in the route.

If a bus is falling behind, dispatchers won't have to wait until a driver radios in to possibly put a new bus in.

And if a bus is running too far ahead of schedule, an alarm will go off to alert the driver.

The technology also could be beneficial to people who leave belongings on buses because it will be easier to figure out which bus was running a route at a certain time.

“It's going to be really nice to get all of this information out there instantly,” Flint said.

Flint said the GPS system, which will be made up by tablets installed in every bus, also can be built on in the future.

During a later phase of the project, the buses will be equipped with an automatic passenger counter system that will display in real time how full buses are.

The data also would be collected more easily and accurately than the current system of having drivers count passengers, and then help guide route decisions in the future.

Other possible upgrades include a stop announcement system that would be triggered by GPS.

“All of these are segmented in such a way that they can be implemented as money becomes available,” Flint said. “It's a building block system, not you have to absolutely do something.”

Flint said RouteMatch, which provides GPS services to other transit systems across the state and the country, was selected because of its track record and because it had an office in Denver.

“We were looking for the most user-friendly system we could find,” he said.

The city allocated about $82,000 for the GPS upgrade, with about $65,000 of that funding coming from state grants generated from increased state vehicle registration fees.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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