I went to the Edmonton Transit System Community Conference this morning, and I have to admit it was rather interesting. I’m not a transit geek or anything like that, but I happened to come across the conference online last week, and a couple of sessions caught my eye. One was on new technology, and the other was on web technology. Other sessions included a tour of the LRT garage, an input session regarding the 100th anniversary of ETS (happens in 2008), and an information session about Edmonton’s Transportation Master Plan.
I recorded the welcome and keynote, which you can listen to here. Here are some notes from the two breakout sessions I attended. From new technology:
- ETS has ordered six hybrid buses, two of which are already in service. Each one costs around $700,000.
- They also recently finalized their largest single order of buses ever (over 200). The new fleet will replace all the old GM buses, and will allow some room for growth. The 2007 Clean Diesel buses cost about $400,000 each.
- ETS is experimenting with GPS and other wireless technologies. Lots of buses now have a GPS transmitter on top. The only thing preventing them from doing cool things like an “arrivals & departures” board at transit centres is money.
- Most buses will be outfitted with a camera system consisting of 5 cameras. The cameras record to a DVR on the bus that has around 1 TB of storage, and uses MPEG-4 compression.
- They have new automatic people counters! Haha, kinda funny they mentioned this one, but it actually does make a big difference I guess. In the future it could be linked to some of the wireless technologies too so that ETS would know if a bus is full or not in real-time.
And from web technology:
- The webmaster for ETS is the same lady who records the BusLink information, and the old station announcements on the LRT.
- I came ready to complain about all the new windows that are spawned on the website. Apparently I’m not the only one with that concern! No word on when it will get fixed.
- The ETS website is the busiest of all City of Edmonton websites, with over 900,000 visits in 2006.
- They launched an online store four months ago, where you can buy tickets and passes. It has already done over $100,000 in sales.
- An average of 89,000 plans per month were created in 2006 with the Trip Planner tool.
- There is a lot of things they’d like to add to the website, but it sounds like they have to jump through hoops to be able to make any changes.
- It was mentioned in passing, but it sounds like the City of Edmonton is gearing up to overhaul their entire web presence.
The new technology session was particularly interesting for me…I have long wondered if they were testing GPS and similar technologies. Turns out they are!
It was announced in the keynote that the recent U-Pass referendum at the University of Alberta passed with 84 percent voting yes. You can read more about the vote at The Gateway. The ETS staff seemed pretty excited about it.
I’m not sure I’d go to this conference every year, but it was definitely worth checking out. And hey, you can’t beat the price – free!