SamTrans to provide GPS-based real-time bus schedule info
- Published Wednesday, December 31, 2008, by the San Francisco Chronicle
SamTrans bus arrival times going high-tech
By placing global-positioning devices on its vehicles, SamTrans
will provide real-time information on bus arrival times at key
transit stops and stations.
By Katie Worth
The timetables for several SamTrans bus routes will be receiving a
The San Mateo County Transit District has hired a contractor to
install electric signs indicating estimated arrival times on all
SamTrans bus lines that go to the Daly City BART, Colma BART and
the Redwood City Sequoia Station.
Arrival times will also be available on the Bay Area's 511 phone
system and on 511.org, allowing customers to know precisely where
their bus is and time their own arrival at the stop to coordinate
with that of the bus.
The system works by placing a Global Positioning System on each
vehicle and then conveying the expected arrival times to signs
installed at bus stops along the route. The system is more accurate
than a typical schedule, particularly when there's heavy traffic or
other factors slowing a bus.
Similar systems have been installed on some lines of San Francisco's
Muni system, on BART and a handful of other transit systems in the
Bay Area. Caltrain has also considered installing arrival-departure
The project will cost the district $1.3 million and is being paid
for by a grant from the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation
Commission. SamTrans spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew said there is
no exact timeline as to when the system will be online.
Adrian Brandt, a longtime transit advocate who lives in San Mateo
County but works in San Francisco, said he has come to rely on Muni's
NextBus service and is thrilled that a similar service will come to
San Mateo's bus lines.
"I really enjoy the predictability," he said. "We were just at
California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park recently and went
to catch Muni home, and I noticed the NextBus display. It was great
-- I knew I had time to go get a Coke at the store on the corner
before it came."
The system can also help riders avoid having to stand at bus stops in
inclement weather, or allow them to sit in a coffee shop or do a few
last minute things at home or work before leaving for the bus stop,
"It's really liberating," he said.
The investment in the new system was mentioned in the district's five-
year strategic plan approved Dec. 10. Providing "real-time information
at key transit stops and stations" was listed as one way the agency
can improve customer satisfaction.
Though the strategic plan does not allow for or consider funding for
proposals, it lists dozens of measures the agency should take to
balance its books, improve customer service, expand service on major
transit corridors and connect to other modes of transportation.