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Codes reveal live bus locations

City adds tracking system to its 750-stop public transit system

Posted: July 16, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 16, 2012 2:00 a.m.

A smartphone equipped with QR-code-reading software can provide live arrival information for a specific bus stop.

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The question “Where is my bus?” is one that many bus riders have had at one point, but they may not have to ask that question any longer in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Workers for Santa Clarita Transit are installing codes that will allow smartphone users to instantly find out how long it will take their bus to arrive at their station.

The quick response codes, or QR codes, are often used by sales and marketing teams to direct shoppers to website product promotions. Santa Clarita Transit is using the codes to link to real-time information about bus locations in the Santa Clarita Valley. The codes are similar to bar codes, with one for each bus stop.

“We generated a unique QR code for each of the 750 bus stops in our system,” said Adrian Aguilar, transit manager for the city of Santa Clarita. “When you scan it, you will draw information from our bus-locating system.”

Each of the buses is equipped with a GPS locator that tells exactly where it is at all times, Aguilar said. The GPS locator and the QR codes work together as part of the transit information network, which the city has been implementing during the past 18 months.

As part of the network, the city has installed electronic signs at busy bus stops with the actual arrival time of buses, but Aguilar said the QR codes will work for smaller, less busy bus stops in neighborhoods. The goal of the network is to simplify the transit program for riders.

The QR codes are embedded in flexible plastic-glass-type material that’s resistant to graffiti and damage, Aguilar said. The city paid about $10,000 for about 750 signs with multiple signs printed for each stop so they can be easily replaced.

The city is phasing in the installation of the signs over about three to four months and has installed more than 100 during the past month, Aguilar said.

And what if riders just have a regular cellphone and are looking for information about their bus? The transit system also has a text system that’s tied to the bus locator system, Aguilar said. The QR code sign also gives information on what number riders can text for more bus information.

Besides giving people up-to date information on bus locations, the technology also gives riders peace of mind, Aguilar said. Riders often perceive time differently when they’re waiting for their bus.

“Two minutes seem like 10 minutes,” Aguilar said. “The time hasn’t changed, but the perception has changed.

“We’re hoping with this technology, we can take the anxiety out of the service,” Aguilar said.

In order to use the system, smartphone readers will have to have a QR reader app installed on their phones. At a quick glance, there are at least a dozen free QR reader apps available if residents search “QR reader” in their smartphone app store.

Once the QR reader is installed and open on their phones, riders just have to scan the QR code on the sign and will be immediately redirected to a website with information on how many minutes away their bus is from that specific stop.

If the bus is less than two minutes away, information on the next available bus also appears.

For more information on Santa Clarita Transit and the QR codes, visit http://santaclaritatransit.com/.

kjonas@the-signal.com

661-287-5517

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