By Reggie Ellis
visalia – Residents relying on public buses to get to work, school and make doctor’s appointments on time should expect more accurate bus routes in the coming months.
At its April 4 meeting, the Visalia City Council unanimously authorized a three-year service agreement worth just over $1 million with Syncromatics of Los Angeles to purchase, install, deploy, maintain and support an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) for all Visalia Transit fixed route, Dial-A-Ride, trolley, and supervisor support vehicles.
Monty Cox, transit manager for Visalia, said the ITS package will include management software, computer aided dispatch, data analysis on ridership and punctuality and better integration with Visalia Transit’s existing mobile app.
Cox said the current AVL system is outdated, making it harder to maintain accurate times and harder to make changes to the schedule so that it gives riders more accurate information.
“The buses will be more on time, the WiFi on the bus will be more reliable and arrival times will be more accurate because they can be changed to reflect live traffic changes,” Cox said. “This will be more efficient for staff and better service for the public.”
One of the new features that will save the City in staff time is automatic passenger counters. Cox said every fixed route bus, such as those that come through Exeter and Farmersville, will have one of the counters to make collecting ridership data easier for reporting to state and federal agencies.
Other upgrades include an on-board talking system to announce each stop, upgrade the digital signs to make them easier to read and a computer-aided dispatch system for its Dial-A-Ride service, which also services Goshen, Exeter and Farmersville.
About the only feature the public might want that wasn’t included was a remote pay option. Cox said including an option to allow riders to pay from their computer or hand held device was too expensive right now, but the new system can easily add the functionality at some point in the future.
“We are definitely working on that but don’t offer it at this time,” Cox said. “The financial aspect, the credit cards, Pay Pal, etc., for that you need a whole different level of security and the cost goes up astronomically.”
The upgrade to Visalia Transit’s buses will not only benefit Visalia but nearly every community in the County. As the transit hub for Tulare County, Visalia Transit’s fixed route services Exeter, Farmersville and Goshen and connects with the similar transit services in Tulare and Porterville as well as the Tulare County Area Transit, which services Lindsay, Strathmore, Plainview, Three Rivers, Lemon Cove, Woodlake and Ivanhoe, among others.
The City had already budgeted $674,000 for the ITS upgrade $674,000 but Council approved an additional appropriation of $383,345 for the project.
No General Fund money will be used as the City has existing Proposition 1B (Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006) and Local Transportation Fund revenues.