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Bus app makes for high-tech commute

2012-11-26 16:32 Global Times     Web Editor: Zang Kejia comment

Beijing is updating its transportation coordinating center, and in the future, residents will be directly informed with live timetable updates, transfer suggestions and even how crowded the buses are.

At an open day of Beijing's Transport Operation Coordinate Center (TOCC) Saturday, staff said the new service will be available across a wide range of platforms, including electronic screens, websites and as a cellphone app in 2013.

Weng Jiancheng, from the Transportation Research Center of Beijing University of Technology, who helped design the new "Bus arrival prediction and traveler service system," said that by using a GPS system, the location and speed of buses can be easily tracked.

"A computer will calculate the possible time of arrival, which will be put online immediately," Weng told the Global Times.

In Beijing, with more than 20 million residents, 5 million-plus cars and notorious traffic jams, the bus system is often criticized for being unpunctual, but Weng has confidence in the system's accuracy. 

"First, public buses have set routes and speed, which are easy to track. Second, we'll allow for new traffic jams and accidents and will adjust the information in good time," he said.

Even the density of passengers will also be considered.

"By installing cameras in public transport vehicles, we'll know how many people there are inside, and suggestions will be given to people who are waiting at the stop to let them decide whether to board a crowded bus. If the density reaches the top limit, drivers will be suggested to avoid picking up passengers at the next stop to ensure comfort," said Weng.

"But don't be afraid of privacy issues concerning the cameras, as they are low in pixels and only for counting people," he said.

Wang Xin, 24 and a college student, said that even though TOCC has done a lot to improve the experience of using a public bus, he would still rather travel by subway in Beijing.

"The bus routes are too complicated, and moreover, I don't see how TOCC can solve traffic congestion. As long as the jams are not solved, I'll take the subway as it is quicker and not subject to congestion," he said.

Xiao Guiping, professor of transportation from Beijing Jiaotong University, told the Global Times that she believes there will not be much return for all TOCC's efforts, as the fundamental issues have not been resolved.

"To ensure this system is fully used, more drivers will need to switch to public transportation so that the system will be allocated more resources. But Beijing has too many cars and because of this, although the city already has China's most developed public transportation system, its efficiency is limited," she said.

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