Metra Board approves contract for new GPS tracking and passenger information system

The Metra Board of Directors approved a contract with Clever Devices Ltd. for a new state-of-the-art GPS tracking and passenger announcement system aimed at improving the passenger experience. 

Metra noted that 20 to 30 percent of its current trains do not track due to failing GPS units, which means the trains do not trip automated platform announcements and do not appear in Metra’s tracker or GTFS feed, preventing Metra workers from providing real-time updates. Glitches in the system also sometimes result in incomplete, unintelligible or repetitive announcements.

Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski says the new system will be a major upgrade and will carry out a variety of tasks currently handled by two separate systems originally installed in 2006 and 2010.

“It will enable us to do a better job of tracking trains and conveying timely, accurate information to our customers, and it will address some of the common sources of complaints about our communication efforts,” explained Derwinski. 

The new system will be used to track train movement, report a train’s adherence to the schedule, make onboard and platform announcements, send digital information to onboard and platform signs and communicate operational changes and alerts to customers. It will entail a new communication network with a complete replacement of all hardware, including computers, GPS units, modems and other components that are no longer supported or past their useful life or capacity.

The $26.7 million contract also call for a test on 11 cars of an automatic passenger counting system that uses cameras in the entrances. If the test is successful, Metra would have to decide whether it wanted to expand the system to replace or supplement its current manual counting of riders at stations.

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