Miami’s trolley system to improve GPS tracking
Written by John Charles Robbins on November 8, 2016
A recent city report on Miami’s trolley system acknowledged the need to improve GPS tracking to feed real-time data to a website trolley tracker and to a mobile application.
Last month, city commissioners took a big step toward making those improvements. They unanimously approved an agreement with Limousines of South Florida Inc. to provide trolley operations services.
The deal includes spending up to $343,990 to set up advanced public transit management technology, including real-time global positioning system capabilities, and outfit the city’s 34 rubber-tired trolley vehicles with the new technology.
Ten newly ordered trolleys include factory installation of the upgraded technology.
Additionally, the agreement calls for spending up to $76,539 a year for the hosting platform and maintenance to support the upgraded transit management technology on all 44 trolleys.
Commissioner Francis Suarez spoke of the popularity and success of the free trolley system, how it’s already been expanded with plans for more growth.
Ridership has been averaging about 380,000 boardings each month, he said.
The software and hardware upgrade will help passengers and city officials “see things in a more dynamic fashion,” he said.
“We’re living in an age when people want to know exactly when they get on [the trolley] and when they get off,” Mr. Suarez said.
For the city, the upgrades will help measure on-time performance of the trolleys, he said.
Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort said he supports the upgrades but again pushed for a comprehensive plan for the trolley service focusing on connections with other modes of public transportation and connections with trolley services in neighboring cities.
Mr. Gort said he’s talked about this a long time, and the city needs to examine how it can maximize its trolley service.
“There are areas underserved,” said Mr. Gort.
Mr. Suarez agreed and reminded everyone that the city began the service with just three trolley routes, which have been expanded to 10.
And Mr. Suarez referenced discussion earlier this year about making the service city-wide with routes to the west and north. A staff report estimated initial costs to add a Flagami route and one for Little Haiti would be more than $2.6 million.
Mr. Suarez suggested the city manager begin looking at how to undertake a final expansion of the trolley service.
The latest report showed proposed dates of 2017 to buy trolleys for Flagami and Little Haiti routes and launching those routes in 2018.
A background memo on the improvements says the city needs to upgrade its computer-aided dispatch and automatic vehicle locator system by adding advanced transit management technology, including real-time GPS to track the location of each trolley vehicle, provide continuous live views of the interior and exterior of each, as well as digitally record and download video and data, furnish high accuracy passenger counts, and create an audio-visual annunciator system with voice and board display triggered by GPS location of each trolley.
As part of the technology upgrade, a smartphone application will be developed exclusively for the system, and the public website will be enhanced and reconfigured, the memo says.
The upgraded technology will provide management and analytical tools to track performance service goals and outcomes, including:
- Trolley vehicle speed and location.
- Headway analysis.
- A route planning tool.
- Estimated time of arrival at next route stops.
- Customized reports requested by local, state and federal transportation administrators.
The smartphone app will be an interactive tool by which riders will access dynamic route maps, stops, and continuous estimated time of arrival for each stop.
The application will interface with both Apple iOS and Android platforms and be free in the application center.
“Overall, the city’s intent, by upgrading to public transit technology, is to improve system reliability and positively transform how residents and visitors interact with its transit system,” the memo says.
In related action, the city commission accepted two allocations from the Florida Department of Transportation as one-time payments to help support the trolley service.
They approved a joint participation agreement with the state and accepted a $145,000 contribution for operating costs associated with the Little Havana trolley route, and authorizing allocation of $145,000 in matching city funds from the city’s share of the transit surtax.
The commissioners also approved a joint participation agreement with the state and accepted a $75,000 contribution for operating costs associated with the Wynwood trolley route, and authorizing allocation of $75,000 in matching city funds.