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GPS System in New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority

The history of public transportation in New York City dates back to 1827 when Abraham Brower introduced a twelve seat stagecoach called “Accommodation. ” This stagecoach originally ran along Broadway and was so popular that by 1931, two more stagecoaches were added. In 1932, John Mason organized the New York and Harlem Railroad which was a street railway that used horse drawn cars with metal wheels that ran on a metal track. It only took until 1855 for New York City to have 593 omnibuses that traveled on twenty-seven Manhattan routes and horse drawn railway cars that traveled up Third, Fourth, Sixth and Eighth Avenues.

The end of the century brought the invention of electricity and the introduction of electric trolley cars which soon replaced horses. The first official subway system opened in Manhattan on October 27, 1904. It consisted of a 9. 1 mile subway line with twenty-eight stations between City Hall and 145th Street at Broadway. The subway service expanded to the Bronx in 1905, Brooklyn in 1908 and Queens in 1915. In 1940, the city of New York purchased current subway operations and became the sole owner of all subway lines.

In 1953, the New York City Transit Authority (now called the MTA New York City Transit) was established to manage all subway routes. Also in 1953, tokens began being used for entrance into subway turnstiles. In 1997, the MetroCard was introduced to replace tokens as an easy way to use the subway system. Buses are also an important part of New York City Public Transportation. The first gasoline powered buses were introduced in 1907. Bus service continued to expand to include more routes and air conditioned buses through the 1960s.

In the 1980s, newly designed buses began to accommodate wheelchairs and also introduced the electric fare box (New York City Transit, 1). The current transportation systems in New York City have built upon these original transportation methods in order to continue to provide public transportation to all citizens. In order to properly manage and control the entire MTA New York City Transit system, an Inspector General position was started in 1983 to oversee these operations. The Investigative Unit of the Office of the Inspector General works to constantly improve and maintain the highest levels of safety and efficiency possible.

The members of this unit analyze current data and trends in order to make recommendations that would improve safety, efficiency and cost effectiveness. The Office of the Inspector General is primarily concerned with the quality of public transportation (Office of the Inspector General, 1). The notion of installing GPS devices onto trains and buses in New York City is an idea that would be addressed by this office. The idea behind GPS devices is to allow public transportation users to see the exact location of the train or bus they are waiting for and how long it will take to get to their location.

This type of technology would certainly improve the efficiency of the entire public transportation system in New York City. Real time data would increase on time arrivals and departures and allow more people to access public transportation in a timely manner. Further, providing real time data via the internet or hand held devices would provide another way to improve customer satisfaction and as well as improve the efficiency of transportation systems. Current research is looking ahead forty years towards the future of public transportation in New York City.

A survey was conducted earlier this year in order to gather information about how New Yorkers travel as the MTA is looking for better ways to match service to travel patterns (Soffin & Donovan, 1). The survey will ask participants about their public transportation use as well as other modes of travel. The results of the survey will be used to enable the MTA to remain eligible for millions of dollars of grant money in order to make necessary improvements to the current public transportation system (Soffin & Donovan, 1). In addition, the results of the survey will show MTA officials specific areas that need improvement.

One of the most cited complaints about the subway and bus system is that arrivals and departures are not on time and passengers are left behind in order to get back on schedule. The results of the survey will be used to make recommendations to purchase and implement GPS software aimed at eliminating these problems. The mayor of New York City (John Lindsay) in 1967 when the New York Transit Authority was formed stated that “at last residents of New York City who commute here daily can have faster, more conveniently priced , integrated service” (MTA, 1).

This remains a goal for the MTA in the present. Those employed by the MTA and related agencies are constantly striving to conduct research that will help them make improvements to the current public transportation system that will make using the various systems easier and more cost effective for the city and for riders. Currently, the MTA reports show that millions of dollars are wasted each year because of the inefficiency of bus and subway arrivals and departures. Additionally, many New Yorkers find other modes of travel simply because they don’t want to deal with the frustrations.

However, this increases the air pollution problem in the city because there are more vehicles on the road. GPS technology would decrease both customer frustrations and air pollution as well as wasted money because the entire system would operate in a more efficient manner. Previous research has led to the construction of many new rail lines and the purchase of many new subway cars and buses. In the 1980s the fleet was completely modernized in order to utilize new technology (MTA, 4). Many citizens rely on the public transportation system in New York City and the MTA recognizes the link between ridership and economic prosperity.

Therefore, constant research is being conducted in order to predict future patterns of use and make necessary modifications to meet the changing needs of riders (MTA, 5). The MTA realizes the enormous potential that GPS technology would provide to transportation systems and have tried unsuccessfully to implement such software. However, this project has not been abandoned because of results of current trend analysis. Current trend analysis suggests that improvements are necessary because of the growing population of the New York City area.

It is projected that the population of the metro area will reach nine million people within the next forty years. As the population grows, so will the need for increased technology as the outer regions of the city begin to expand further and further from the downtown area (MTA, 6). In addition, travel patterns and trends are projected to change as the population and area of the city increase. The number of destinations will grow as will the need for travel from New York City to the suburban areas. As a result, trend analysis shows how necessary it is for the MTA to finish the projects that are currently under construction (MTA, 7).

To this end, the MTA has established five goals: 1) invest based on meeting specific needs; 2) use the existing system as much as is practicable; 3) eliminate overcrowding and long travel times; 4) eliminate barriers to access to the regional transit network; and 5) exercise planning and investment discipline (MTA, 8). As a way to eliminate barriers to access to the regional transit networks, the MTA is proposing better use of real time data so transit users can access information and status of their preferred mode of travel via cell phone, PDAs or similar devices (MTA, 13).

In addition, the MTA is trying to maximize the use of instant messaging delivery of track and train information at commuter rail terminals (MTA, 13). This type of technology can make public transportation more accessible to all citizens because of the easy accessibility to real time information about arrival and departure times. The MTA is currently testing GPS technology through the installation of fifteen signs that count down the arrival of buses. Transit authorities say they will continue to use these test signs through the end of the year before deciding how to proceed with such a project on a larger scale.

Currently, the signs are not completely accurate – often they are off by as much as a minute in reporting the arrival of a bus. Additionally, 168 buses are equipped with GPS systems that communicate with the fifteen signs. The project was designed as a pilot program to try to eliminate bus bunching, long delays between buses and to improve customer satisfaction. If the glitches can be worked out, transit authorities hope to outfit all buses with the GPS technology as well as put real time bus information on line (Naanes, 1).

Despite the failures of installing GPS units in all buses and trains, it is still a goal that the MTA hopes to completely implement very soon. This is one major way to improve the customer satisfaction, efficiency and cost effectiveness of running such a huge public transportation network. The fact that so many trains and buses run off schedule and often leave passengers behind is testament to how important GPS software is for efficient operating of the subway and bus system in New York City. The current efficiency of the MTA wastes millions of dollars each year and makes using these systems challenging.

The use of GPS software will improve on time schedules and allow patrons to plan their route based on a real time schedule of arriving buses and trains. Additionally, such a system will allow the MTA to operate its transportation network in a way that will reduce wasted cost, lower air pollution and help to eliminate customer frustrations. Prior to 2003, the LED signs installed in subway stations and bus depots only listed the current date and time. The use of Siemans Transportation Systems and their technology was aimed at installing digital next train arrival message boards at 158 subway stations.

However, there was a problem with the software and MTA threatened to drop the Siemans software which was fixed a few months later. Another type of software is being tested on the L subway line but the MTA has pushed completion of such installation of GPS technology back until 2011. It remains a priority for the MTA to discover a way to improve the GPS technology available in order to maximize its use within its public transportation systems. Many other large urban areas have found ways to effectively incorporate GPS data into providing real time information so the task is not impossible but is presenting a challenge to New York City.

Perhaps the answer lies in developing software that would be unique to the New York City public transportation systems. There is no argument that the subway and bus system in New York City is need of vast improvement. The idea behind GPS software is to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction through real time data. In a constantly technologic society, it is imperative that New York City continue to search for GPS software that will reach these goals. The forty year plan written by the MTA discusses the use of GPS software through the use of the internet and hand held devices.

However, installing GPS systems on buses and subways will go much further towards improving schedules and reducing customer complaints. The research shows how effective these types of systems are for other large cities and their transportation systems. It is largely unclear why New York City has been unsuccessful in implementing such technology but it remains a top priority for the MTA. Current trends point to an increase in population and the size of the city so the MTA should proceed without delay.

The Office of the Inspector General states a goal of constantly working to make necessary improvements so its employees must continue to explore the various GPS software currently available and work towards developing one that will work for New York City. Successful implementation will result in better monitoring and control of scheduling as well as significant increases in customer satisfaction. MTA. “Planning ahead: the next 40 years. ” Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 2008. 4 Dec 2008 < http://www. mta. info/mta/planning/index. html>. Naanes, Marlene. “Bus GPS technology spotty at best.

” New York Times, Dec 2007. 4 Dec 2008 < http://www. amny. com/news/local/transportation/am-gps1213,0,5567401. story>. New York City Transit. “History and Chronology. ” New York City Transit. 4 Dec 2008 <http://www. mta. nyc. ny. us/nyct/facts/ffhist. htm>. Office of the Inspector General. “OIG Organization. ” Office of the Inspector General. 4 Dec 2008 <http://mtaig. state. ny. us/about_the_office. htm>. Soffin, Jeremy & Donovan, Aaron. “MTA set to survey customers – participation is encouraged. ” Metropolitan Transit Authority. 2008. 4 Dec 2008 < http://www. nustats. com/mta/docs/PressRelease. doc>.

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