20-07-03 Mountain Rides 1 Roland.jpg

Passengers can expect an update on Mountain Rides’ busses later this year.

The Mountain Rides Transportation Authority will likely adopt a new software system this fall to more efficiently share GPS coordinates and passenger load information with riders.

The web-based system by Ride Systems LLC would enable administrators to keep closer tabs on bus capacity and location, Mountain Rides Executive Director Wally Morgus said in a Wednesday meeting. Visual graphs updated on the hour would display ridership counts and vehicle occupancy, according to a Ride Systems proposal.

A subsidiary of Ford Motor Co., Ride Systems has extensive deployment of its system throughout the U.S.

“They’re particularly well-suited to an organization of our size,” Morgus said.

Because Ride Systems’ software is web based, users aren’t required to download data onto a computer or workstation.

“This transfer of information occurs in seconds,” the company stated. “Additionally, passengers do not waste time standing at bus stops or miss their bus, as they can view the vehicles in real-time and receive alerts and updates via push notifications and SMS texts.”

A $285,000 contract with Ride Systems—which the Mountain Rides board authorized Morgus to sign on Wednesday—includes an annual service fee of about $27,000 per year, billed on a monthly basis. Morgus said Mountain Rides is still in negotiation with the Idaho Transportation Department to get up to 100 percent of the expenses underwritten by a special grant for the new service.

“We don’t have that finalized at this point,” he said.

Mountain Rides Transit Operations Director Ben Varner said that under the agency’s current system, recalibrating routes and implementing schedule changes is a labor-intensive process.

“With the addition of the Silver, Gold, Bronze and Galena routes in the winter, Kim [MacPherson] has to put hundreds of hours per year into managing the schedules,” Varner said. “The management of route changes is included in Ride Systems’ annual fee. That’s a big deal for us.”

Varner said one thing Mountain Rides has needed for over a decade is an automated voice and sign system to alert riders to upcoming stops. Currently, drivers are calling out stops, he said, which can be tiresome.

“Being able to automate these an-nouncements will bring us into full ADA compliance, which is important to us,” he said.

The proposed software system would also install sensors at buses’ front and rear doors to automatically count passengers. Drivers would no longer have to visually count people, Varner said.

“When drivers are loading 40 people into a bus in the winter, they’re already concerned about sliding and ice and snow. Counting passengers is just another worry on top of that,” he said.

Varner added that Ride Systems’ software will give Mountain Rides administrators a better idea of growth opportunities.

“We’re going to be able to see where people are getting off the bus. Right now, we just have anecdotal feedback on that from drivers,” he said.

With a better understanding of passengers’ movements across the valley, routes could be adjusted to accommodate their needs.

“Automated passenger counts are a really exciting piece of this,” Varner said.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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