City embarking on $3.5M transit system overhaul

Red Deer buses are about to drive into the 21st century.

Red Deer buses are about to drive into the 21st century.

Starting next year, the city will embark on an estimated $3.5-million project to transform Red Deer’s public transportation system.

When completed, the city’s 57 conventional buses will be outfitted with electronic signs and annunciators that will allow both visual and audio bus stop and street location announcements.

At Sorensen Station and some bus shelters, electronic signs will offer updated information on when the next bus will arrive.

At other bus stops, passengers will be able to phone an information number with the bus stop number and get real-time information on the next bus arrival.

Transit Manager George Penny said it’s a fairly large undertaking that is expected to be in place by the end of 2017.

“It’s what every transit agency really likes,” said Penny. “It’s the ability to collect data so you can really make decisions correctly.”

Buses will be outfitted with global positioning systems (GPS), automated passenger counting, security features and other transit technology components.

Action buses will be outfitted with mobile data terminals to streamline dispatching in real time on the dashboards, allowing more same-day bookings.

“Now when there are cancellations it is very difficult to know where the bus is and what’s going on,” said Penny. “Now we will know in real-time. So if somebody wants to book a trip on the same day, we’ll be able to do that more efficiently.”

City council approved $1.57 million in the 2015 capital budget after previously approving $1.9 million for the project. The city has applied to fund the project through GreenTrip provincial funding. If approved, the provincial funds will cover two-thirds of the cost.

Penny said Red Deer has grown in recent years, bringing new routes to the expanded areas of the city. He said it is no longer efficient to collect information by hand.

The new technology will allow the city to collect data and monitor and track buses on the road. So in the case of an accident on a route, the home base can contact the drivers with alternate route information. Penny said the new system will allow the city to plan routes more efficiently.

“We really want to be able to analyze how many people get on and off the bus at different routes so maybe we can change some of the routes,” said Penny.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com