Pennsylvania Transit Agencies Get Ready for Tech Overhaul

The state is funding the $35.7 million move to an intelligent transportation system, which will include real-time ride tracking as well as security upgrades.

by Sam Galski, Standard-Speaker / March 9, 2018

(TNS) — Hazleton Public Transit is among 32 transit systems that will have data collection systems overhauled over the next three years as part of a state-funded program, the city’s director of public services said.

State transportation officials recently shared plans for implementing a Fixed Route Intelligent Transportation System (FRITS) for most transit systems in Pennsylvania. Avail Technologies, State College, will implement the program, state officials said in a news release.

Hazleton Public Transit will be among the systems targeted for technology upgrades to equipment that tracks most aspects of operations including vehicle revenue miles, vehicle revenue hours and ridership, said Ralph Sharp, who oversees transit services as Hazleton’s director of public services.

“They want to update every transit system so we all pretty much have the same equipment,” Sharp said. “It is 100 percent funded by PennDOT for each agency.”

Upgrade funding

State transportation officials expect to spend $35.7 million on the FRITS upgrades for Pennsylvania’s transit systems, officials said in a news release.

For about five years, Hazleton Public Transit has been using Avail’s Global Positioning System, which gives customers and transit officials the ability to check phone applications that provide real-time information about bus locations, but Sharp said technology advancements prompted state officials to consider updating technology used by just about every transit system in Pennsylvania.

Upgrades will continue over three years and state officials will evaluate systems at each transit agency before deciding the order that programs are upgraded, he said.

When work is completed, passengers who use transit services in Hazleton will experience a seamless ride when transitioning to buses that operate in other communities, Sharp said.

“You can tap your (bus) card and use the same card to ride in Wilkes-Barre or Scranton,” he said. “They’re going to try and make it a seamless system so that everyone is coordinated with each other.”

New security cameras will also be installed on buses, he said.

Easton Coach has the contract for operating 14 regular and spare buses that are owned by Hazleton Public Transit, Sharp said. Easton Coach leases a facility for storing buses on Old Airport Road in Hazle Twp. In February, state officials announced plans for building a $15 million facility near Old Airport and Hess roads for maintaining and storing those buses.

In an unrelated development, local transit officials expect to receive two compressed natural gas buses — a first for the local fleet — in September or October, Sharp said.

“We’re going to be the first in our (immediate) area to have the compressed natural gas buses,” Sharp said. “Eventually, we’ll switch the full fleet.”

A tanker truck will be used to refuel those buses until compressed natural gas fueling equipment is installed at the new storage facility, he said.

©2018 the Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.