Monday, September 22, 2008

Alphabet Soup

I have long been meaning to post on our new Automatic Vehicle Location project but given the size and complexity of it, I have been struggling to figure out where to begin. Of course what you don't start you can't finish, so here goes....
What is It?
Most commonly called the Capital Metro ITS project, the AVL project has been somewhat misnamed (more about that in a minute). The Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) project is designed to put GPS (Global Positioning System) devices on all of our fleet so that operations and the public will better know where our vehicles are at any given moment. While a simple concept, the effort required to achieve this is very large and the impact is potentially huge. Over the next few posts I want to explore what the new system will do for everyone and why it is worth the effort.
Why The Funny Name?
When the Automatic Vehicle Location project was first planned and conceived, it was one of the first major introductions of "high-tech" stuff to be rolled out to the public for Capital Metro (not counting Automatic Passenger Counters, and Electronic Fare Boxes). Therefore the term Intelligent Transit Systems was used to describe the project. In general Intelligent Transit Systems are any use of technology that face the public in the area of transportation. So things like smart message signs on the freeway, traffic light pre-emption technology for rapid bus, electronic ticket vending machines at train platforms, video cameras at traffic lights, etc. are all examples of Intelligent Transit Systems. Now that Capital Metro is exploring usage of many new technologies to better the public transit system, it no longer makes sense to call this project the ITS (or Intelligent Transit System) project. So I will attempt to always refer to it as the Automatic Vehicle Location project (AVL for short) to avoid confusion.
What's in It For Me?
That's really the question most people want to know the answer to. I hope to go into detail on this over the next 2 -3 posts broken down by the Mode in which we are rolling it out. The project starts with the technology being placed in the MetroAccess (Paratransit) vehicles first where the greatest cost savings and value to the customer can be realized. Once that fleet is done we plan on rolling it out to the rail vehicles, then the Fixed Route system, and finally the rapid bus system when it comes on line.
Next post will be the details in each of these modes.