Public transport technology drives efficiency, flexibility, and safety through reliable cellular broadband connectivity
Even in the wake of a global pandemic, public transit technologies continue to make strides. Although bus, trolley, ferry, and light rail use initially plummeted following the outbreak of COVID-19, full seats are making a comeback with ridership now reaching close to 60% of its pre-pandemic levels and rising.
As patrons return to regular use of public transportation, they bring with them a new desire for contactless payment options, enhanced security, and insights into seat availability and schedules. Luckily — alongside the increased adoption of 5G — public transport technology has evolved to meet those needs, driving further increases in ridership.
Use cases for public transit technologies
These days, a bus without Wi-Fi might as well be an ancient artifact. By deploying a Wireless WAN (WWAN) router that supports Wi-Fi in transit, at stops, and in stations, passengers, drivers, and agencies can take advantage of 5G speeds, latency, and bandwidth — along with the hallmark mobility of cellular broadband — to power a variety of use cases.
Ask any public transport agency what their priorities are, and the safety and security of passengers and drivers will likely be at the top of the list. 5G connectivity enables cameras inside and outside vehicles to transmit live and recorded HD video footage to headquarters or offload it wirelessly at stations. This footage not only helps to mitigate incidents enroute but can also assist with the validity of accident reporting.
Also, on-board IoT sensors can count the number of passengers getting on and off the vehicle, which can provide life-saving data to first responders in the event of an emergency.
Digital signage on vehicles
Here’s your sign: because of its low latency and high bandwidth capabilities, 5G delivers multimedia content faster. That means news about routes, stops, and schedule changes can be displayed and updated while a ride is in progress to ensure passengers have the most up-to-date information. Digital signs can also display maps and arrival times or showcase advertisements and visual announcements from anywhere along the route.
Visit our Public Transit Webpage to explore the wireless edge solutions that keep transportation agencies rolling smoothly, and dive into our In-Vehicle Buyers' Guide for details on what to consider when implementing connectivity in motion.
Mobile ticketing for public transport not only reduces theft by limiting cash transactions, but it also virtually eliminates the need for physical contact, which leaves passengers breathing a sigh of relief in a post-COVID world.
Touchless payment systems require high availability and prioritization over other network traffic. Vehicle WWAN gives agencies the ability to separate payment and fare box transactions from other network traffic on the vehicle, ensuring always-on connectivity.
Reliable, free public Wi-Fi on public transport is a fundamental expectation for passengers aboard buses, ferries, trollies, and light rail. This — along with the increased adoption of local transit apps and contactless payment solutions — means the cellular broadband network providing connectivity in motion must be robust enough to handle multiple users, as well as support the vital systems in place for the safety and functionality of the vehicle.
Not only does 5G connectivity provide increased bandwidth, but 5G network features also support network slicing, allowing IT administrators to tailor and prioritize security and bandwidth needs based on traffic type, ensuring drivers, smartphone scrollers, and everyone in between stay connected and secure.
Telematics and GPS, GNSS, and AVL
5G for public transit is a key element to monitoring location and statistics associated with transportation. Telematics data such as tire pressure, temperature, oil volume, and even driving behaviors (sharp turns, hard breaking, etc.) can be monitored remotely via a wireless broadband connection.
Additionally, most public transport vehicles use automatic vehicle locators (AVL) and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems that piggyback on the Global Positioning System (GPS and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) to provide exact vehicle coordinates for dispatch. Advanced public transit technologies use this information to automatically notify first responders, share vital information when an accident occurs, update virtual maps and route information, and more.
Security and signage at stops
While most public transport technologies tend to center on the bells and whistles of an on-board experience, the uses of 5G WWAN also extend to stops and stations. Cellular broadband can provide connectivity for monitoring passenger traffic, updating digital signage with advertisements or schedule information, and connecting surveillance cameras — especially in remote locations that can’t benefit from the added security of nearby surveillance. Each of these use cases has the potential to improve rider safety and satisfaction.
Public transportation technology: the future or frivolous?
The popularity of WWANs is in large part due to the flexibility of the network. Paired with the performance of a 5G network, it’s the perfect companion for public transportation.
Take Seattle-based King County Metro, for example. Riders expected real-time updates about bus locations and arrival times delivered via the website, apps, and digital signs, but without a continuous network connection, King County Metro had no way to take advantage of GPS or AVL data to deliver this information. On top of that, the lack of reliable in-vehicle connectivity stifled the ability to control traffic priority or use a touchless payment system.
By installing wireless routers on board their fleet of more than 1,750 buses, King County Metro was not only able to meet riders’ expectations, but they also had access to Cradlepoint NetCloud Manager, giving them the ability to schedule and deploy updates across the entire fleet, simultaneously and remotely.
Valley Regional Transit faced similar struggles when their 2G and 3G modems routinely lost connectivity. With each network failure, the ability to communicate with traffic signal priority (TSP) radios also failed, causing buses to fall behind schedule with limited ways to notify passengers of schedule changes. Installing new cellular broadband routers specifically designed for the unique needs of fleets gave Valley Regional Transit reliable connectivity throughout its service area to collect real-time data that improved efficiency and passenger expectations.
Getting started with public transit technology
People-moving technology relies on connectivity that never stops. When selecting a wireless broadband solution for public transportation, here are some things to consider:
- Clearly define your hardware and software needs.
- Perform a proof of concept to test coverage and map cellular broadband connectivity on anticipated routes.
- Implement an industry-leading solution that includes cloud management services, advanced security, and robust support.