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City eyes SmartBus system

A year from now, OC Transpo passengers could be hearing automated stop announcements in both official languages.

A year from now, OC Transpo passengers could be hearing automated stop announcements in both official languages.

In buses, digital signs will display the next stop and alert riders to detours and external emergency events, such as Amber Alerts.

At transit stations, riders will be able to track their buses on digital maps with predicted arrival times updated every couple of seconds, based on GPS, an odometer and the scheduling system.

Riders will also be able to access the information on their BlackBerrys and iPhones.

Produced by a U.S.-based transit technology company called Clever Devices, the SmartBus technology suite will be considered at the city’s transit committee on Wednesday.

“We work in one of the most difficult technology environments in North America, which is in Manhattan,” said Diane Ayers, vice-president of business development with Clever Devices, “so working here (there) should be no large technical issues.”

Ayers said the only significant change between the system proposed for Ottawa and other cities is that the announcements had to be in two languages.

At $17 million, the SmartBus system is substantially more than the $6.72 million put aside in the 2008 budget for an automated announcement system.

“For what we already planned to spend, we’re actually buying more features,” said Transit Service general manager Alain Mercier. “We’re buying the kitchen sink. Everything that has been developed in North America as a best practice, we could buy in one shot.”

That packaging of services would explain why OC Transpo has been slow to implement stop-calling technology, said Mercier.

The system can also be equipped with SmartCards, Mercier said. The Ontario Fare Cards are expected to go online around 2011.

If purchased, the SmartBus technology would be on 90 per cent of OC Transpo’s fleet by the end of 2010.

Mercier said compatibility issues prevented the system from being installed on some of the oldest buses, but those buses would be retired by 2016.

 
 
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