In Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city,
Mobitex has become the lifeline for mass transit
services. More than 600 buses, trams and trains
are now connected to the Mobitex network.
GLAB/Bohustrafiken is improving service and
increasing comfort for passengers and
commuters in increasing numbers are leaving
their cars at home.
Gothenburg commuters takes the bus
Getting drivers to leave their cars at home and take the bus to work is not easy. Yet this is the goal set by local politicians for GLAB/Bohus-trafiken, the mass transit authority in Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city. Before the year 2000, the company expects to increase its share of commuters to 25 percent.
GLAB operates on the simple but realistic option that commuters will choose the best travel alternative. Comfort and reliable service are the key factors in making mass transit services attractive. Mobitex is helping GLAB to make sure that buses, trams and trains operate on time and to provide seats for all commuters on the GL Express buses serving Gothenburg suburbs.
Today, more than 600 vehicles in regularly scheduled service are equipped with Mobitex systems. All mass services in the Gothenburg region are now monitored and controlled via the Mobitex network As Roger Vahnberg, systems manager at GLAB points out, by providing an effective communications network for the entire region, Mobitex has quickly become the lifeline for mass transit services.
Real-time database An essential factor in the system, which was developed for GLAB by Hogia Communications, is that all drivers are obligated to report vehicle status via Mobitex. The information from the vehicles is entered into a real-time database maintained by GLAB, which provides traffic controllers with up-to-the-minute information on all vehicles on all lines. In addition to reporting in when they start their shifts, drivers are obliged to report delays exceeding five minutes and to report when passengers exceed the number of available seats.
Recently a database containing all timetables was integrated with the real-time database system. The system is now able to track the location of all vehicles in real time. Some 20 traffic control centers are connected to the system. Although these centers are usually manned, the system is able to handle most messages automatically and to alert standby personnel when required.
The integration of the two databases made it possible to design two units designated the report manager and the message manager. The report manager routes all information in the system between the vehicles and the various traffic centers and determines when and where information is needed. The message manager, which receives messages generated by the report manager, plans ahead so that messages are sent as they are needed by the drivers and traffic controllers using the system.
Improving service The system is actually designed to serve two user groups, reports Roger Vahnberg. First and foremost, the system is designed to improve service for passengers. However, the needs of the local operators, have also been addressed in designing the system.
Passenger service is improved in several ways. If a bus is delayed the Mobitex is able to provide information on connecting buses, allowing the traffic controller to make a decision as to whether or not affected buses can be allowed to wait. The after-effects of delays can thus be minimized while ensuring that as few passengers as possible miss connections. In fact, the system can handle most minor delays and automatically notify the drivers of affected vehicles.
Many buses have also been fitted with onboard computers and positioning equipment that provide additional services. The computer monitors both the ticket machine and signs in the bus to automatically provide accurate information to passengers. On certain lines, passengers may even order a taxi for the continuation of their journey which will be waiting when they alight from the bus.
The Mobitex system also provides better information for passengers. Information on arrivals, departures and reported delays is transmitted to electronic signs at terminals and major bus and train stops. Passengers can obtain information on schedules and routes directly from the driver, who accesses the database system via Mobitex and prints out the desired information in the vehicle.
Fully operational and reliable Installation of the system started at the end of 1989. By autumn 1991, Mobitex equipment had been installed in all of the more than 700 vehicles operated for GLAB/Bohustrafiken. Major enhancements in the system for traffic controllers were made later that year and in spring 1992. The system has now been fully operational for a year and a half.
"As with any new system, there were initial difficulties," reports Leif Stensson, a traffic controller at Swebus, the largest local operator. "The drivers were skeptical at first, but they quickly saw that the system works very well and is completely reliable. As bus drivers are solitary workers, they also appreciate the alarm functions built into the Mobitex system."
Improvements in quality of service and passenger comfort have been noticeable. The system provides a wealth of statistics on passenger loads, deviations from schedules, etc. Planners and traffic controllers are able to react more quickly to both variations traffic conditions and changes in travel patterns. Fewer passengers miss connections and more seats are made available.
In fact Leif Stensson feels that the amount of information made available is in many respects the most important benefit provided by the Mobitex system. The lists he receives detailing the daily operations of the bus fleet provide information that was not previously available or extremely difficult to gather. His job is made easier and his knowledge of operations increases.
The bus drivers also feel that the new system is helping them to do a better job, Leif reports. They notice the improvements in service and receive fewer complaints from passengers. Using sophisticated equipment creates a feeling of higher status.
Many benefits The Mobitex system has created a new role for traffic controllers. As Bengt Carlsson, project manager at Hogia Communications, points out, routine jobs have been automated, not the decision process. "By minimizing voice communications and letting the computers take care of the routine work, the burden on the traffic controller has decreased so that he is more able to concentrate on the primary task: getting passengers to their destination on time," says Bengt.
Passenger service has improved. There are fewer and less frequent interruptions of service. When interruptions do occur, passengers receive accurate and timely information, decreasing irritation and allowing them to plan accordingly. New services, such as personal time tables and the ability to order a taxi from the bus, increase the attractiveness of mass transit services as an alternative to private transportation.
The driver's working environment is also enhanced. The Mobitex system, particularly in vehicles with an onboard computer, is reducing the number of devices that the driver must operate and automating tasks not related to driving. This has a positive effect on safety.
The economic gains provided by the new system are substantial. Administrative routines in such areas as vehicle maintenance and invoicing of local authorities are now more cost effective. More importantly, the system provides a tool allowing rapid transit services to be more finely tuned to passenger needs. GLAB regards its investment in Mobitex as absolutely essential in providing a modern and efficient rapid transit system, able to serve the needs of its passengers into the next century.
GLAB - company information GLAB/Bohustrafiken is responsible for public transportation in a region extending from Gothenburg, which is Sweden's second largest city, to Strömstad near the Norwegian border to the north, Alingsås to the east and Kungsbacka to the south. In this region, which covers three counties, GLAB carries 150.000 passengers each day. Most passengers are transported by bus, but GLAB also operates commuter trains on two lines to Alingsås and Kungsbacka and has some ten ferries serving islands outside Gothenburg.
GLAB, which is owned by the three county authorities in the area it serves, is actually a joint operating company which coordinates activities, is actually a joint operating company which coordinates activities for more than 50 local transport companies. The goals established by the owners include increasing market share so that GLAB will provide 25% commuter travel before the year 2000.