Greater Lafayette Information Technology Society

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by Bob Verplank, Computer Visions

Melissa BaldwinMelissa Baldwin, CityBus: How do they do that?

Our January GLITS meeting featured Melissa Baldwin (pictured), of CityBus, who explained how CityBus tracks all of its vehicles, predicts when they'll arrive at each bus stop, and notifies its customers by electronic signs, text messages, e-mail, and web pages.

CityBud jig She brought a jig with her that includes a mobile data terminal and a cellular modem (pictured) to demonstrate.

Melissa started out by telling us about the equipment that was used to do various tasks. The first piece of equipment is a mobile data terminal by Mentor which is a touchscreen GPS device in each bus, with Windows CE on each system, connected by a live Sprint phone connection through a cellular data modem, with an automatic people counter which counts by thermal radiation emanating from people. All of this data is transferred to an application server located at CityBus on Canal Road. The application server is a Dell PowerEdge 2970. One of the principal operating programs is "Streets" which is a fixed route CAD/AVL software program. This software handles administration, of employees, vehicles, system: scheduling, transit scheduling, driver assignment, schedule creation, and schedule assignment. On a typical weekday there will be 1,500 individual trips made by 43 vehicles, with a workday starting at 5:30 AM and ending at 12:45 AM. All dispatching is done in real-time

The database server is programmed in SQL. The communication server is a partition in the database server. The service schedule is done on a yearly basis. Scheduling is done on a Monday to Thursday basis, and then Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are done on a different basis. The electronic digitized signs in the buses are stored on an Excel spreadsheet and changed as the GPS location of the bus changes. There is an electronic view of the buses, their number, the driver, and their location, available to the system coordinator. The same bus may cover several different routes in order to transport passengers from one location to a more distant preferred location, for instance from Purdue to Tippecanoe Mall. This gives the drivers more variety, but makes scheduling more difficult.

The drivers receive their data from the mobile data terminal. A red signal tells them that they are early and a blue signal tells them that they are late. A schedule of 1 minute early to 5 minutes late is considered acceptable

The general transit feed specifications include data on: agency, calendar, stops, routes, trips, stopping and starting times. We also have a streets enterprise-real-time/fixed route service behind a firewall.

Information available to the user is available on smart phones, telephones and cell phones by calling them, and on the Internet. With the Internet, many services are available including MyRide and RouteShout, an application for Droid, iPhones, and cell phones and on the Internet. You can also call and tell them where you are and they will tell you when the next bus will arrive. You can also text to 25252 to get arrival times. Google is soon to come out with an app that will operate off of stored, not real-time data to give you both bus routes and estimated bus arrival times.

To view their web site go to and look at stops, routes, and the many features of MyRide.