ARC to send bus info to mobiles

Standing at an Auckland bus stop in the rain, wondering when your bus is due? In just a few months, your mobile phone will be able to tell you.

Standing at an Auckland bus stop in the rain, wondering when your bus is due? In just a few months, your mobile phone will be able to tell you.

Auckland Regional Council last week launched its Rideline website, which is intended to complement its existing bus information phone service. Trials of a WAP/SMS version are already underway and the service should be available by the end of this year.

The website, www.rideline.co.nz, also covers trains and ferries. It can advise the best routes from one location to another by several methods of transport, giving departure times and estimated journey lengths within the region — between Waiwera to Pukekohe — including distances from bus stops.

Transfund New Zealand will contribute $166,000 over three years towards the running of the Rideline website. This adds to more than $1 million spent developing the sophisticated database that drives the site’s journey planner and the computerisation of all ARC systems over the past two years.

ARC director of operations and technology Tony Darby says staff at the Rideline contact centre used to use five six-inch thick folders with timetables and fares. Last August the council consolidated its call centres as they converted from paper to computers. Four people worked full-time over eight months electronically capturing the data, which represents 500 routes, 6000 trips, 500 timing points and 2000 landmarks. An up-to-date inventory of the location of 5000 bus, train and ferry stops was completed by visiting each one.

The system uses IPTIS (Integrated Public Transport Information System) trip planning software. Net-based versions of IPTIS were first used on Brisbane and Perth’s public transport information websites. It was developed by Brisbane-based IT company OpCom (www.opcom.com.au), which also worked on ARC’s database and website development.

The system uses Compaq Proliant servers and workstations under Windows NT and an Oracle database. The website uses Cold Fusion. The Rideline phone centre’s telephony system, Transcend, was installed last August and is a high volume call application based on Rockwell’s Spectrum automatic call distributor (ACD) software.

The website requires little staff input and ARC says it can be maintained at little cost. In future it will also provide detailed maps of Auckland and timetables.

ARC says the Rideline Contact Centre received 1.2 million calls in 2000, from an estimated 84,000 people. By April 2001, this had risen to 3100 calls a day.

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