Metro Transit Agency Keeps Network & GPS Connected for Accurate Real-Time Information
As the sole public transit provider in Idaho’s Boise Metro Area, Valley Regional Transit (VRT) no longer could afford intermittent connectivity, inaccurate data from GPS downtime, and technology that could not keep up with the ongoing digital transformation.
Valley Regional Transit future-proofed its metro bus operations with a comprehensive solution from Cradlepoint, including ruggedized COR Series in-vehicle routers and NetCloud Manager. Now the agency has constant connectivity, real-time data, and cloud management for streamlined operations, better passenger service, and the ability to scale up for years to come.
ValleyRide is the transit services division of Valley Regional Transit (VRT), the regional public transportation authority for Ada and Canyon counties in southwest Idaho.
The agency, which spreads 1.3 million trips per year across roughly 60 revenue vehicles, provides fixed-line public transportation services throughout the Boise Metro Area and operates door-to-door paratransit bus services for disabled residents.
Before VRT was introduced to Cradlepoint, the 2G/3G modems in the organization’s fixed-route buses had become a significant problem. Connectivity was routinely lost. Further, if accidentally plugged into the wrong port of a vehicle logic unit (VLU), both the modem and VLU could be ruined—a problem that happened often.
“The biggest obstacle in our bus system was inconsistent connectivity,” said Nick Moran, ITS administrator.
Each Internet failure prevented the VLU from doing its job, which was to provide GPS/AVL functionality and to communicate with a traffic signal priority (TSP) radio. TSP automatically triggers traffic lights to turn green for buses that are behind schedule.
In Boise, inconsistent connectivity was causing VLUs to send outdated information—instead of trustworthy real-time data—to VRT’s system, which often caused TPS to unnecessarily manipulate traffic lights. Inaccurate information also greatly hindered transit users who depended on VRT’s route tracking web portal.
With a new underground public transportation hub looming, VRT knew its connectivity issues were becoming even more complex. With as many as eight buses underground at any given time, how could the agency ensure reliable GPS access?
The agency also had the future in mind. Its existing solution was not capable of allowing the agency to keep up with the U.S. government’s 10-year IT&S plan for public transit organizations. Further, VRT wanted to begin offering free rider WiFi.
“We needed the best technology to help us move forward,” said Nick Moran, IT&S administrator.
For the utmost connectivity and flexibility, VRT installed Cradlepoint’s future-proof in-vehicle COR Series routing platform in each bus, with an external antenna mounted on the roof.
VRT also is using Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Manager for remote troubleshooting, instant firmware upgrades, and many other benefits.
“It wasn’t just a modem for our buses. It was a comprehensive solution,” said Billy Wingfield, operations director for VRT.
This solution provided the platform capacity to implement initiatives such as vehicle annunciators and automated passenger counters, all of which are in the organization’s five-year IT/IT&S plan.
Whether VRT’s buses are in the agency’s underground hub or anywhere in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, the IT team and drivers can rely on reliable 4G LTE wirelss connectivity.
“Cradlepoint provided a strong and stable solution to our communication problems. We now have an information system that is both dependable and reliable," said Kelli Badesheim, executive director of VRT.
HIGHLY ACCURATE REAL-TIME DATA
On each bus, a Cradlepoint router is teamed with a multi-zone GPS repeater to ensure uninterrupted vehicle tracking.
“Today the information available to our riders is much more reliable than ever, thanks to our Cradlepoint solution,” said Rhonda Jalbert, VRT’s development director.
Constant WAN connectivity and GPS access improve the accuracy of information provided to riders, which translates into fewer phone calls for VRT’s customer service team to address.
“We had been averaging 9,000 to 10,000 customer service calls per month. With Cradlepoint, that number has fallen by about 25 percent. The difference saves us an entire full-time employee,” said Wingfield.
“Without Cradlepoint, I can’t even imagine what our staff hours would be,” said Jalbert.
HIGH-QUALITY PASSENGER WIFI
Now VRT adds value to its transit service by offering free passenger WiFi. More than 350 passengers per day are utilizing guest WiFi, and that number is sure to rise as the service becomes more well-known.
“There are benefits that we never even imagined," said Billy Wingfield, VRT operations director.
“Providing free WIFI on our buses has been a huge hit with our riders,” said Badesheim.
The agency now has opportunities to easily track WiFi usage, customize its splash page, survey its riders, and pursue various marketing options.
REMOTE MONITORING & MANAGEMENT
Through NetCloud Manager, VRT’s IT team, which covers three operations locations as well as dozens of buses, can troubleshoot and deploy firmware updates remotely.
“Prior to our Cradlepoint solution, we had been pushing out firmware upgrades between midnight and 4 a.m. to avoid disrupting our services. Today, we can instantly update our entire fleet with the click of a button,” said Moran.
With the flexibility to think big, VRT is considering implementing fare boxes that enable payment by credit card or phone, along with real-time monitoring of the CCTV system.
EXCEPTIONAL CUSTOMER SUPPORT
VRT benefited from Cradlepoint’s expert engineers during solution deployment and enjoys ongoing support through CradleCare, which provides resources and expertise to keep the network running smoothly.