Technology… Moving Transit and Improving the Rider’s Experience
Remember 20 years ago when cell phones were a luxury? Home desktop computer were rare? Computers did not have Windows on them? Fast forward to today and almost everyone has a cell phone or some type of computer. We use our cell phones every day to talk, text and find and store information. As a matter of fact, our phones are more like small hand-held, very portable computers. They enable us to stay connected to others, access vital information on demand and so much more.
Much like cell phones and computers, the transit industry has made huge strides with technology. These advancements have made using public transportation simple, easy and efficient. Stark Area Regional Transit Agency (SARTA) routinely researches various technologies, services and programs that can be implemented to improve Stark County residents’ access to our services to take them to work, school, doctors’ appointments, shopping or to visit friends and family. Most recently, we applied for a competitive grant that would have enabled SARTA, the City of Canton and others to develop a Smart City. A Smart City is a city that fully integrates innovative technologies like self-driving cars, connected vehicles, smart sensors and much more into their transportation network. Unfortunately, we were not chosen; however, we are continuing to look for ways to move transit forward with new technologies.
In 2012, we launched a new website with several new features and added the ability to purchase bus passes or tickets online. This feature is great for those riders who can’t always make it to a transit center and do not wish to purchase a pass on the bus or wish to pay with a credit card. As technology changes, so must our website. This summer we will launch our renovated site that will be mobile responsive. As a mobile responsive site, our riders will be able to easily access any information on our website from a mobile device or desktop computer. Additionally, we are improving the purchasing feature of the website to make the process simple, fast and efficient.
In 2014 we launched PinPoint, our Real-Time information system that allows riders to access information on any of our 31 fixed routes. PinPoint is accessible by phone, from any desktop computer or mobile device through our free app (available on Apple and Android). Once riders access PinPoint, they can view routes, locate a bus stop, plan a trip or set up an account to receive service alerts via email or text.
To complement our PinPoint system, we worked with Google to have our routes incorporated into Google’s Trip Planning program called, Google Transit. SARTA went live with Google Transit in 2015 and it enables riders to plan trips based on departure/arrival times and a specific start/end location. For example, if a rider wants to go to a Rubber Ducks game in Akron, they can use Google Transit to plan the trip from their home in Canton to the stadium in Akron. This trip would require them to utilize SARTA and Akron Metro to get to and from the ballpark. Additionally, Google Transit will also tell the rider how long the trip will take, what routes and stops the rider will use and the cost of the trip.
Not only has SARTA implemented programs that enable our Fixed Route Riders to use our services more efficiently, we have integrated programs for our Proline services as well. We continuously update our Proline technology to improve the trip booking process for our riders as well as the trip planning for our drivers. To provide an improved booking process, we launched GoLine in 2014. The program enables Proline Riders to go online to schedule, confirm or cancel a trip. It also allows riders to store frequently scheduled trips to speed up booking. Furthermore, GoLine enables riders to call our automated line to check or cancel a trip any time of day. Another popular feature of GoLine is the reminder calls. GoLine will call riders 24 hours and again 15 minutes prior to the scheduled pick up time to remind them of their trip. During the 24 hour reminder call, the rider can decline the trip if they no longer require it.
Technology is continuously changing and improving the way we do business each day and we are continuously monitoring the advancements. Some improvements are easily noticed, like PinPoint or GoLine, and some are not. However, the improvements in technology enable us to meet the day-to-day needs of Stark County residents and provide them with quality transportation that is both reliable and affordable.