GPS technology and why DTC would not use it

While cluster buses in Delhi provide real time travel info to commuters using GPS, DTC buses make no such effort.

shivangi-narayan

Shivangi Narayan | February 28, 2014



Everyone is looking towards technology for solutions. Except, it seems, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC).
Despite the transport department starting a project in 2010 to provide GPS in all public transportation systems in the national capital, the actual progress at ground level is tardy and patchy. Of the total 6,372 buses in Delhi, GPS has been installed till now in 3,770 DTC buses and 1,002 cluster buses. The 1,600 old DTC buses do not have GPS as they soon have to be replaced by low-floor buses.

Apart from that, around 6,000 contract carriages and 23,000 autos, out of the 72,000 that ply the city, have GPS installed in them.
DTC officials blame the system itself for the slow progress. “There is a lack of stabilisation of the GPS project,” DTC spokesperson RS Minhas said. “The project was supposed to be implemented by DIMTS (Delhi integrated multi-modal transit system Ltd, an urban transport and infrastructure development company). They have not been able to complete it.”
 
The transport department, though, disagrees. “The GPS project is working fine,” deputy commissioner of transport, Ranjana Deshwal said.
GPS is a proven technology used by over 100 countries for a variety of purposes, including tracking of public transportation services.
The software for tracking through GPS has been developed by DIMTS and has been deployed at both of its own control room and at the Millennium bus depot along Nizamuddin bridge over the Yamuna. Under its automatic vehicle locater (AVL) system, the software collects information such as the precise location of a bus on its route, speed, and its in-shedding and out-shedding time at depots. The information collected through AVL is provided in the form of Delhi transit bus information application but only for cluster buses.

Interestingly, an ‘incomplete project’ according to DTC is working perfectly well for cluster buses. “The app provides real-time information about only orange (cluster) buses right now,” said Prakash Pai, senior vice-president (IT), DIMTS. He said the same information is collected for DTC and can be easily displayed for their buses as well.
 
Deshwal, though, blamed it on the lack of route-merging by DTC and cluster: “DTC and cluster buses also have to merge their routes to make available all information about different services in a consolidated manner.”

Data for cluster buses are also collected through the public information system (PIS) boards at bus stops. Available at present only in the New Delhi municipal council (NDMC) areas, they display the ETA (expected time of arrival) of cluster buses for commuters waiting at bus stops.

While cluster buses use electronic ticketing machines (ETM), which is part of the automatic fare collection system project, DTC buses still issue paper tickets. ETMs make it easier to consolidate ticket sales and calculate revenue data in a precise manner.

Also, considering transport department decides frequency of buses on road based on their ticket sales data, use of paper tickets leads to irregular deployment of buses. At DIMTS, big data analysis of AVL is being used to build dynamic schedules (see box) for buses. “Fixed schedule can run only when there is a dedicated lane for buses – such as in a BRT corridor. For buses that share road space with other vehicles, we need dynamic scheduling,” Pai said. As their ticketing data is electronic, it is easily being analysed for route rationalisation and to accurately decide frequency of buses on a particular route. “We add (to the existing data) 30 percent of travellers who carry passes and then determine the number of buses that a route requires,” said Pai.

Pai and his team are working on several tools such as congestion module, which is used to determine the time of arrival of the buses. Comparison of ticketing information from weekends and weekdays is also used to determine deployment of buses for maximum efficiency of resources. “We have finite resources with which we need to provide maximum satisfaction to commuters,” Pai said.

Experts suggest that the DTC is not using an existing and proven technology and seems to be showing a rudimentary mindset that neither brings in transparency nor increases revenue. In both cases, commuters eventually end up suffering.

Meanwhile, a ray of light is the ministry of road transport and highways’ notification, instructing transport departments of all states with a population of at least 10 lakh to install GPS in public transport vehicles by February 20 (the deadline earlier was September 2013). A new tender for CCTV cameras for buses was also floated on February 3 as part of a '1,405-crore project to track and monitor public transport and provide alarm buttons for women.

Delhi Transit Bus Info app in a glance

The app provides estimated travel time between two given places by bus, estimated time of arrival (ETA) of buses, route details, locations of bus stops, trip planner and tracking of buses on a route.
The information is provided in real time for cluster buses (or the orange-coloured buses) in Delhi.
 
How does the app help?
Find out bus stops in an area.
Find out the bus that would take them to their destination in the least amount of time.
Calculate expected travel time.
Find out expected time of arrival of a bus.
Track a bus graphically on the Delhi map.
Find out number of buses running on a particular route.
The functions (b) and (f) are available for both DTC and

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