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Monday, August 10, 2020

Smart Buses bring better tracking to WTA

Geoff Beaumont, Project Manager of the Smart Bus, gives a test drive of a bus with the new features on Monday, Sept. 30. // Photo by Noah Harper

By Noah Harper

Waiting for a bus in the winter is a grueling process. If you are a student who depends on the Whatcom Transportation Authority, there is not much you can do but bundle up and brace the cold.

In early 2020, riders will have the ability to track bus locations via live GPS. This new technology will be featured in  WTA’s new line of Smart Buses.

The Smart Bus upgrades coming to WTA’s fleet of public buses are closer than some riders may realize.

WTA operates 64 full size buses, seven of which are testing the Smart Bus features, according to Operations Supervisor Brian Richeson.

Riders of the test buses will be able to hear the bus announce what route it is from the outside as well as hear automated driver announcements from the inside. The ability to track the buses with real time GPS will not be available until the Smart Bus upgrades are fully launched in 2020. Riders will see where their bus is and in real time and will get updates on delays due to traffic or road closures with apps like Google Transit and the WTA app, which has yet to be released.

“We have the same vendor working on our paratransit project to improve service for our paratransit passengers … our existing system on those buses are turning off on Dec.31 so our focus had to be Paratransit,” Beaumont said.

Once the buses are cleared for public use, the WTA plans to spread the word of the upgrades so everyone can utilize them.

WTA riders on four different routes were unaware of the coming changes.

Tracking the location of busses will be helpful as a WTA bus rider, Bellingham resident Adrian Fiala Clark said.

Thirteen years after its original conception, the WTA is ready to finish this project, which was shelved due to financial setbacks.

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