Senior IT, Texas A&M University Transportation Services
Texas A&M transit system, we have 97 buses, we operate 18 routes on and off campus. We have 63,000 students, about 10,000 faculty and staff, as well as some city population that rides the buses also. So it is a large operation and it is one of the largest in the state. Technically in the state of Texas we have the 6th largest transit agency. On a normal fall or spring semester day, we carry an average of about 50,000 passengers.
We’ve added TripSpark’s technology. Each one of our buses is equipped with a Ranger Mobile Data Terminal which allows us to know where the bus is and what the bus is supposed to be doing. It gives a good interface to the driver. We have Automatic Passenger counters. We have CAD-AVL, Computer Aided Dispatch and Automated Vehicle Location.
The majority of our employees are student workers and our student workers are dispatchers and drivers.
One of the difficulties that we face is how to roster a schedule when our students are only driving 2-3 hour shifts. They have to go to class so they can’t be driving 8 hours a day like a normal transit driver. That makes it very difficult. The way TripSpark works in this area is drag and drop. It makes it very easy for us to roster a schedule where it’s been broken up in small pieces.
Allowing our passengers to have access to the real-time data on the buses has greatly affected the way they use our system. They can look while they’re still sitting in their apartment or dorm, they can look to see if the bus is outside or if maybe it’s running a bit late. They don’t have to go outside and stand there waiting for 10 minutes waiting on the next bus.
Now that they have that real-time data and they have the passenger information that’s on each bus, they don’t have to call us to ask us that information, so it’s allowed our dispatchers and our office staff to actually concentrate more on their job of running our fleet and making sure we’re running it efficiently.
Improving our efficiency has been very important to us, because we have limited resources. Buying a bus such as the one we’re sitting on, costs about $500,000. We have to get every rider on this bus possible and try to get them to their location quickly, or else we can’t run an efficient business.
We have gone from running about 4.5 million passenger trips up to nearly 8 million passenger trips, without overhauling the size of our fleet.
Special events – football game days and other game days are always a challenge for us. On a football game day we’ll have about 100,000 fans in in the stadium and about 25,000 of them will be riding on our buses. With TripSpark we can monitor the passenger counts and keep track of when the passengers are going where and that will help us to apply the buses as we need to. One thing we were looking for in a vendor is that they would be willing to work with us after the sale, and TripSpark has done that very well.
We were looking for a partner to help us succeed, and TripSpark has been that partner.