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Turning Transit Dreams into Reality in Oahu, Hawaii

Sep 13, 2019
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When I think of Oahu, I tend to daydream of swaying palm trees, pristine beaches, and drinks with pineapple in them. But now I also think about the working people of Oahu who make that beautiful place go ‘round. Oahu is an island with a large city after all, with a lot of industry (like manufacturing) and a population of about 1.4 million. I figure there are different levels of relaxation in Oahu. One would be the type I daydream of, and another would be having confidence in your public transportation provider in getting you to where you need to go on time and not having to worry about it. That’s the dream Oahu Transit Services (“Oahu” or TheBus), had for its riders, and they are now one step closer to converting that dream into reality. 

One of the trends that has been evolving in the last few years in our industry is a focus on a higher frequency of service and we commonly see this pop up in the form of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), but it is also commonplace in Rail. When shifting to higher frequency of service, the posted schedule time that a vehicle is going to arrive becomes less important than the vehicles being evenly spaced along the route and arriving consistently. This way customers know that they won’t have to wait long for their ride. The challenge for you is, how do you ensure buses are being spaced evenly across these routes without dedicating significant manpower to the task? 

Without proper headway management, the island’s busiest routes are subject to vehicle bunching, resulting in long passenger wait times at bus stops and sometimes in missed rides altogether. In 2017, we partnered with TheBus in Oahu to help them solve this problem by building out features in their existing TransitMaster solution to analyze bus spacing, inform operators of their spacing on their Mobile Data Terminal (MDT), and automatically send commands to the operator to correct spacing at layovers.  

Trapeze’s Dmitriy Vanchugov says, “Agencies have been able to track buses on a computer for a long time, but there was never an algorithm taking that information and converting it into instructions for drivers and managers.” Vanchugov added, “It takes system awareness and turns it into action.” The solution went live in 2018 on a single route and has recently gone live on a second route. 

The deployment is still in its early stages, but Ralph Faufata of Oahu said that TheBus has seen a significant drop in the number of pass-up complaints, especially on the high-traffic route that travels through downtown Honolulu.  With the optimized spacing, passenger loads are balanced more evenly between vehicles.  

Douglas Ibarra, from Oahu, who accepted the ThinkTransit Award of Excellence in Innovation in 2018 for the project, says “this headway management solution from Trapeze is really groundbreaking. It’s come a long way and we’re really excited for what we have now.” Catch more from Doug here

What daydreams do you have for your passengers?  

For more on this story, check out this recent article published by BusRide. 

Nathan Reynolds has been working in the public transit industry with Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) for his entire career. Nathan currently serves as Director of Product Management for ITS overseeing product lines that cover Fixed Route, Rail, and Paratransit transportation modes. Nathan loves working with transit agencies to understand and solve their problems.
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