APTA | Passenger Transport
May 25, 2009

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Improved Transit Stops Draw More Passengers, as ‘Elite’ Shows
By SAUNDRA LAUTENBERG,Vice President, Operations, Trueform LLC

The time passengers spend waiting for a bus, trolley, or train often can make or break their larger transit experience and their perception of the public transit agency in general. As passengers wait, the infrastructure they encounter is the “shop window” for their evaluation of the quality of the transit service—and it offers the agency a chance to put its best foot forward.

What do passengers really want as they wait? They want information—about when the next vehicle will arrive, and the best route to get to their destination. They want a safe, well-lit environment. They want a transit stop that is attractive and well maintained, without graffiti or other traces of vandalism. If they are physically challenged or visually or hearing-impaired, they want features that will make the transit stop and its amenities accessible to them. And if they’re environmentally conscious, as so many are today, they will appreciate knowing that the infrastructure incorporates sustainable materials.

Anyone who has waited for a transit connection knows that the waiting experience on many systems needs improving. Trueform has developed a system designed to enhance both the passenger’s experience and the agency’s objectives.

Our Elite Transit Stop system delivers clear, concise real-time schedule information and provides safety and convenience at a transit stop. Depending on the options selected, passengers can access route information, real-time and next bus messages, and even available touch-screen journey planning and smart ticketing functions. The system, designed in conjunction with disability and access user groups and complying fully with the Americans with Disabilities Act, offers features that are important to customers with disabilities—from a tactile bumper foot for wheelchair users and the visually impaired to Braille and auditory route information enhancements.

If the solar lighting option is selected, the Elite units can illuminate the immediate area, making for a safer transit stop. In addition, at the touch of a push button, the solar function will backlight the map, making it easier for passengers to obtain information at night and during periods of inclement weather.

Steel and aluminum construction, rugged finishes, and anti-graffiti paint will help keep the bus stop attractive and in good condition.

Proven Increase in Ridership
Since the Elite system was first installed in Manchester, England in 1997, thousands of the units have been successfully deployed throughout the world. Currently, Elite systems are in operation in London and in North America from Oregon to Florida to Winnipeg, Canada.

Transport for London (TfL) has reported dramatic ridership increases on its bus routes equipped with Elite units. From 2003 to 2005, these routes achieved their highest passenger numbers since 1969 and their fastest growth since 1945. The bus routes saw ridership increase 7.3 percent over 12 months and 19 percent over three years. Undersubscribed night routes showed a 16 percent jump in ridership, which TfL credited in part to Elite’s solar-lit poles that provide a welcoming, safe environment and increased map legibility.

Helping Agencies Plan for the Future
While creating a positive experience for passengers, the Elite system also helps the transit agency achieve its goals and low life-cycle costs.

The units are constructed of 100 percent Buy America components and 100 percent recyclable materials, with some parts made from pre-recycled components. The design means the system needs little maintenance: for example, changing route information—often a labor-intensive effort that weighs on an agency’s operating budget—can be easily accomplished, significantly minimizing operating budget expenditures.

When a transit agency wants to introduce new route information to the system, it need not dismantle the pole or remove or replace flags: workers need only unscrew the vandal-proof strip above the route tiles, remove and replace the incorrect tiles, and refasten the strip. With quick-release fastenings for rapid assembly and maintenance, the entire operation takes virtually two minutes; a similar effort with conventional transit stop hardware could take half a day.

Agencies can purchase the Elite system according to their budget: stripped down, fully loaded, or anywhere in between. Numerous options are available, such as if a transit agency wants to put real-time information on its 10 busiest routes and install audio-enhanced information at certain locations.

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