Thanks to a new app launched through the Summit Stage, visitors and residents now have a wealth of transit information at their fingertips. The new SmartBus app, developed through DoubleMap, will allow users to track current bus locations, plan for estimated arrival times and look up the nearest bus stop.
“It’s another tool to make the system a little easier to use,” Summit County transit director Jim Andrew said. “It took a fair amount of work and longer than we had hoped, but we finally are there.”
Users can download the Summit Stage SmartBus app on either iPhone or Android. A realtime map of all bus routes and stops is also available at www.summitstage.doublemap.com.
For users without smartphones, the ETA at each stop is still available by text. Just text “ETA” and the stop identification number to (970) 296-8111. Stop ID numbers are posted at each bus stop and listed across the top of each timetable on the Summit Stage schedule.
“It’s certainly gonna make it easier for people that are already using (the system),” Andrew said. “The real test will be this coming winter with all the visitors.”
“Together, all these new technologies will make the Stage a stronger, more efficient public transportation system for riders, transit staff and decision-makers alike.”Dan GibbsSummit County Commissioner
While the app is relatively new — it officially launched on Monday, May 9 — he said they had noticed several transit users accessing the live map on the site for more information in prior months. In February, prior to the official launch, they counted 7,000 users on the site.
Assistant county manager Thad Noll said the project started with a search for better ways to collect rider data. Prior to the addition of the new technology, passengers were counted by drivers using a pen and paper, and dispatchers relied on a call to know if a backup bus would be needed.
“Somebody would take all those sheets of paper and put them into spreadsheets, which was incredibly cumbersome and inaccurate,” Noll said. “We looked for somebody to do passenger counting. As we started to do this research, we thought, ‘You know what, most of these things are integrated with other systems.’”
After looking at the big picture of a computer-aided dispatch system, automatic passenger counters and GPS-tracked vehicles, DoubleMap was selected as “one of the better systems in the country.”
“It appears to be giving us pretty solid data,” Andrew said. “Of course, the nice thing about that is it’ll give us the data much quicker. …It will make planning and tweaking the routes a lot easier with that kind of information.”
In the future, Noll said the app will have more capabilities, including sending out a text alert when a bus is about five minutes from a designated stop. The goal is to also gather information on how full the approaching bus is, to determine whether another one needs to be dispatched.
“We’re excited primarily because for passengers who sort of expect digital information to be readily available about buses and routes, now it’s here,” Noll said. “It may also help us get riders who are a little more tentative about taking the bus.”
Users will also be able to sign up for an alert in the event of construction or weather delays.
This summer, DoubleMap and the Summit Stage will also work to install a next-stop annunciation system in each bus, comprised of an audio announcement as well as the stop name displayed on a screen.
“It just takes the angst out of when do I pull the cord, how do I know when my stop is?” Noll said.
The Stage will also install digital signs that display bus arrival times at each of the major transit centers in Frisco, Breckenridge and Silverthorne.
There has also been some discussion of including information from the Breckenridge Free Ride system in the app, but no concrete plans as of yet.
“It certainly would make sense to have everybody using the same system,” Andrew said. “There’s some interest in combining the two.”
The total cost of the system comes out to $429,589, with just under $50,000 in estimated annual maintenance. The Colorado Department of Transportation helped finance about $60,000 of the project.
“Together, all these new technologies will make the Stage a stronger, more efficient public transportation system for riders, transit staff and decision-makers alike,” Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs said in a statement. “We’re taking our customer service to the next level.”