‘Smart’ bus stop signs to say when the bus is due

Solar-powered digital signs linked to GPS transmitters aboard buses will notify passengers of the vehicle’s precise location.

By RON FRIEDMAN
September 29, 2010 03:16
3 minute read.
egged bus

egged bus 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Within a year, bus riders in some locations will be able to get an answer to the eternal question: “When is the next bus coming?” A new initiative by the Israel National Roads Company, announced Tuesday, aims to have solar-powered digital signs linked to GPS transmitters aboard buses, which notifying passengers of the vehicle’s precise location.

The INRC recently issued an international tender for the establishment of 100 intercity bus stations featuring solar powered digital screens that will be able to inform waiting passengers of the exact location of the expected buses and count the minutes and seconds until its arrival.

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Such public transportation monitoring systems that are based on satellite positioning operate in countries such as Spain, France, Germany and Switzerland. Here is Israel, both Egged and Kavim bus companies have taken steps to try out similar systems.

But the requirement that the system be powered by solar energy, taking advantage of Israel’s most readily available energy source, would put Israel at the forefront of technological advancements in the field.

The tender also allows for additional optional uses for the signs to be placed at the bus stops, including things like projecting news and traffic updates as well as advertising. According to the tender specifications, the signs are also required to have buttons to switch the notices to other languages and to read out the messages for the blind.

The project’s success depends largely on the willingness of the bus companies to cooperate with the INRC and agree to have their buses linked to a shared central monitoring system.

According to the tender specifications booklet, the Transportation and Finance ministries have made the use of smart digital signage a top policy priority and have the authority to demand that the companies connect their buses to the grid.

Companies will be able to connect either directly from the bus to the sign or through a national public transportation information center soon to be established by the Transportation Ministry.

“We are proud to be leading an initiative that is meant to benefit mainly older people, students and soldiers,” said INRC director general Alex Viznitzer.

“The State of Israel supports its public transportation to the tune of NIS 2.5 billion a year, but there is still a large public that waits at bus stations in a state of uncertainty – while we live in a world that can provide a real and inexpensive answer to the question ‘when will the bus arrive?’” “During the last three years we have carefully studied the successes and failures of such systems around the world, including the trials that were conducted in Israel. One of the challenges we face is coping with the hot Israeli sun, which burns the screens in such a way that makes them unreadable,” said Viznitzer.

Viznitzer added that environmental conservation is a central part of the INRC’s social responsibility philosophy, which explains the requirement that the signs be independently solar-powered.

“We were told by foreign providers we work with that such solar powered systems that can project information both day and night are rare in the world,” he said.

INRC chairman Micha Goldman said that at the conclusion of the pilot project, many parameters, such as reporting accuracy, compatibility with the various bus operators, customer satisfaction and durability in face of vandalism would be tested and that if the system was found to be successful the company would place the signs in all of its bus stops nationwide.

The INRC maintains a total of 3,000 intercity bus stops across the country.


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