King County Metro Transit Division/DOT
Chair, APTA Sustainability Committee
I see two primary areas of action in the public transportation technology field: the extent to which we can drive down our energy use—particularly regarding bus fleets—and customer information.
King County Metro has received a $5 million Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction grant for design and construction of at least one all-electric demonstration bus. It will be a year-long examination of the technology, with practical use further down the road.
Because our trolleybuses have to be connected to wires, we’re looking at other technology experiments that could lead to the use of a fast-charging battery. We could extend the range of our zero-emission fleet without having to install overhead wires. We’re also continuing to work on the next generation of rolling stock, using hybrid technology in 40-foot and 60-foot buses and investing in all-electric vehicles for the vanpool fleet.
We also try to keep current with the type of tools, features, and products wanted by an increasingly sophisticated, plugged-in public. Almost all our customers have cell phones and they expect real-time information. We make our information available to third-party developers—it’s a cost-effective way to get new products out there. For example, a graduate student created the “One Bus Away” app that provides Next B.us arrival time for any stop in our system. That isn’t something we could have built easily ourselves.
The challenge facing public transit is making sure we provide information to developers in a standardized format so they can create fancy new apps, while at the same time, determining what features we must host in house. We want to find the proper balance between the traditional information we provide and third-party apps.
Sustainability is the main issue: as an industry, are we doing everything we can to make transit competitive to using your own car? We need to provide a good service to begin with, then extend our market reach with new features that can make service more seamless and convenient, adding to rider confidence.
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