The Advertiser runs the story this morning. The gist:
Now that is nifty. There are all sorts of public safety, scheduling, and efficiency reasons to keep close track on the position of your buses. (The major package delivery corporations and many of the long-haul trucking firms and airlines already do this. —I recently was able to track a friends' flight from San Antonio to Lafayette in real time on the carrier's website. We left the house when the plane hit the parish line and met her coming off the breezeway.)
"This allows us to give information to the public," Mitchell said."They can go online and see where their bus is in relation to their bus stop in real time."
Those who use the online service will be able to set an alarm at a specific point on the route, that will alert them when their bus reaches that point on the map in relation to the bus stop, Mitchell said.
There's not much in the way of a hint as to how this info will be provided. It'd be great if it could be provided in a format that would allow anyone to use it...for instance to provide a feed that would be usable on a cell phone or as a module on a community commons site.
(Google is testing a format for such....Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) Here's an example of how this works. The current iteration of the Google labs project doesn't include a real-time feed that uses GPS data. But it is pretty clear that the right programmer could add that relatively simply using the Google API and tools like Gadgets to overlay the updated GPS coordinates. See Austin's implementation. (Hah!!! See update below, the overlay's already been done.))
As fun as this is now imagine how useful it will be once the fiber-based wifi system is operational. Take your laptop, iphone, blackberry, cell or other net-connected device and track where your bus is now. No uncertainty, no trying to remember all the schedules for all the buses. You can be an occasional user. One of the differentiators for many people between large cities and small towns is how useful the public transit system is. Large cities like Chicago or San Francisco already use a version of this. Properly implemented this could go a long way toward making it practical -- and comfortable -- for people who do not have to use the transit system to do so. The folks downtown realize that:
Good for the transit folks. Good for Lafayette. It will be a huge improvement over the current set of online pdf schedule maps which don't appear to have been updated recently.
Mitchell said the Web site combined with the GPS tracking is another method to make people aware of Lafayette's bus system and how it works.
"This is another way we can get people to ride the buses and make it more convenient for our riders," Mitchell said.
Update!!!....in my poking about a bit more I found just what I want for Lafayette--Look at this google-based overlay of data piped through NextBus for San Francisco. It appears to update every 30 seconds or so. The google underpinning is free; all NextBus had to do was provide a java-based overlay of the current GPS reading for each bus. It works on my Mac, your PC, and any mobile device that can browse the web and play the java applet.