Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

7.9 Location of Public Transit Buses and Rail Systems

In an evacuation situation, public transit equipment can be used to transport evacuees. While vehicles may remain on schedule, at other times they may not. Buses can be re-routed or dispatched as needed. Having agency staff that can provide information on the location of a bus is very beneficial, but there may be times when staff is unavailable. Information on bus arrival times can be important to evacuees and may assist in their evacuation.

MyBus – MyBus is a tool that can assist evacuees in knowing the location of public transit buses. According to the American Public Transport Association Passenger Transport article “Bus Advances Are Fueling Changes in Perception,” MyBus “provides estimated departure times of buses from specific geographic locations; the listings can be read on a mobile phone outfitted with a wireless application. BusView maps out bus locations on a personal computer, so riders can determine how long they have to get to the stop.”

The article reported: “King County Metro uses two vehicle location technologies developed by the University of Washington, called tracker systems. The university developed MyBus and BusView as part of Smart Trek, a model deployment initiative project for Intelligent Transportation Systems, with funding from the US Department of Transportation. A similar program, TransMart, is in use by Long Beach Transit in Long Beach, California; a radio and text messaging system that connects bus drivers with the communication center and provides real-time location updates. The system can track each bus as an icon traveling on a wall-mounted map in the communication center.”

Evacuees may use public transport to flee an incident, as was the case during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in both New York City and Washington, DC. Evacuees may need to transfer between the bus and rail system, and knowing when the next vehicle will arrive could be beneficial.

A tool is currently available that utilizes GPS technology to minimize passenger waiting times when interchanging between the two services. The system, being pioneered by the Greater Copenhagen Authority, allows for “public transport users in Copenhagen, Denmark [to] know exactly how long they have to connect from buses to trains, and vice versa, with [a] seamless real-time communications system,” as reported in the ITS International News article “World First Claimed for Bus/Train Communications System.”

According to the article: “Buses and trains will be able to communicate with each other in real time using a city wide digital communication architecture, and thus report to drivers the location and time of arrival of corresponding services. Passengers on board trains and buses will be informed by way of on-vehicle screens the status of their next corresponding service.”

The article reported: “Integration of bus and train systems will undoubtedly eradicate what could amount to hours of waiting time and provide our passengers with security and a positive traveling experience.”

February 7, 2006
Publication #FHWA–HOP-08-015