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0-4233_ Transit Coordination in Texas

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0-4233_ Transit Coordination in Texas Powered By Docstoc
					CHAPTER FIVE

POTENTIAL APPROACH TO A REGIONAL TRANSIT
INFORMATION SYSTEM -- LAREDO AREA.

Laredo is on the border between Texas and Mexico, and so is a hub for its intercity transit
carriers for passengers traveling from Mexico to destinations further north; even the local
urban and rural services carry a large number of international passengers.

Transit Providers in Laredo and Webb County

      El Metro (Laredo)
      El Aguila Rural Transportation (Webb County)
      Greyhound
      El Conejo
      Latinos de Greyhound Autobuses
      Latinos Azabache De Greyhound
      Valley Transit Company

Local public transportation services are provided within the city of Laredo by El Metro
and in surrounding Webb county by El Aguila Rural Transportation. The two services
connect at the Laredo Transit Center, which also serves as a boarding point for
Greyhound. El Conejo, Latinos de Greyhound Autobuses, Latinos Azabache De
Greyhound, and the Valley Transit Company (interlined with Greyhound) also operate
intercity services in and out of Laredo. A significant segment of the intercity transit
riders are traveling to and from Mexico.


Current or Past Coordination Projects

El Aguila rural routes are coordinated with El Metro urban routes to allow passengers to
transfer from one service to the other. The two transit services both stop at the Laredo
Transit Center, which is also a hub for Greyhound.

The Laredo MPO and El Metro are exploring the possibility of bus rapid transit for the
Laredo area, which would promote further coordination of area transit services.


Status of Transit Information Services in Laredo Area

El Metro’s website has been recently upgraded to provide maps and schedules for each of
its routes. No online or other automated trip planning assistance is available, but El
Metro customer service operators make use of the “MapQuest” website
(http://www.mapquest.com) to help callers find the El Metro route(s) that best serve their
trip origin and destination. Future plans include Trapeze route scheduling software and
bus-information telephones at El Metro’s major bus shelters.

El Aguila provides customer assistance by telephone for fixed route trip information and
paratransit reservations. At this time, no information except for El Aguila’s telephone
number is available online.

Of the intercity services, Greyhound provides the most extensive on-line information.
Route and schedule information can be found by entering city names of the trip origin
and destination. Reservations and and ticket purchase can also be performed online, as
well as over the telephone. El Conejo provides no online information at this time; route
information and reservations are available via telephone. Latinos de Greyhound
Autobuses and Latinos Azabache de Greyhound do not provide separate websites, but
likewise offer information and reservations over the phone. Valley Transit’s website
directs users to the Greyhound website for intercity service (Valley Transit and
Greyhound are interlined); local service information is provided via telephone.

Benefits of Regional Information for Laredo Transit Services

A regional information system would help to promote variety of transit services in and
around Laredo, and would be a valuable resource to the many people traveling from
Mexico into Laredo and other destinations in Texas. Regional information coordination
would also benefit future projects planned for Laredo transportation services, including
bus rapid transit and a proposed 511 travel information telephone system for the region.


APPROACH

A web-based transit information system, such as is being proposed for the other two
regions in this study, would be difficult to implement at this time in the Laredo area. Of
the local transit providers, only El Metro and Greyhound have passenger information on
the Web, and most transit riders for El Metro, El Aguila, and the intercity providers are
more likely to telephone for information. A wider-reaching, more cost-effective method
for this area would be a telephone-based information system.

El Metro’s telephone system has 1000 separate voice-mail “boxes”, of which only 30 to
40 are currently in use. The surplus mailboxes could be used as a branching telephone
information system, with touch-tone menus leading to recorded information in English or
Spanish for each participating transit provider in the area. The caller would also have the
option of being connected (through call forwarding) to the offices of any provider for
further assistance. The costs for setting up the menus and mailbox contents would total
approximately $500. Each agency would then have a password to their mailbox(es) for
changes and updates. Figure A shows a sample branching system.

A second option (which could be used in addition to the telephone system) would be
static signs or posters at transit stops, particularly at hubs, indicating the transit services
and providers available, contact information, and nearby boarding locations. The Laredo
Transit Center in downtown Laredo is a multi-modal hub from which passengers can
board El Metro, El Aguila, or Greyhound. El Conejo has a transit center only a few
blocks away. Circular rotating signs for displaying El Metro route information at bus
stops (currently under consideration for purchase) are $300 each, with
changeable/replaceable inserts. Similar signs would work for displaying regional transit
information. Public service announcements with this information could also be placed in
local media and with the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau.

      Potential Institutional Issues:
          o Transfers between services/providers
                   Gaps or disconnects between services
                   Different rider restrictions or riding rules (bicycle accessibility,
                      luggage restrictions)
                   Scheduling coordination
                   Fare payment for multiple services
          o Updating information (updating schedules, consistency)

      Potential Project/Coordination Leader
          o El Metro is the logical organizer for this system, as the owner of the voice-
              mail system that will serve as the transit information center.

      Technical Needs
          o Voice mail system (already in place at El Metro)

      Financial Needs
       o Telephone company time for implementation -- $500
       o Periodic staff time for maintenance/updating information, maximum 5-10
          hours/month
       o Bus-stop signs with regional information -- $300 each

      Possible Funding Sources
       o For planning aspects, some MPO funding might be available. MPO funding
          cannot be used for operation or infrastructure.
       o El Metro
       o Greyhound
       o El Aguila
Figure A. Illustration of sample branching system. The caller would first be asked to select the desired language (e.g. “Press 1 for
English, 2 for Spanish”). The next message would allow the caller to select Laredo city bus service (El Metro), Webb County rural
service (El Aguila), Greyhound, El Conejo, or other options not shown in this example. The main message for each agency might
contain information such as hours of service, fares, and location of major transit stops, and would provide the option of speaking
directly with an operator at the agency’s call center (through call forwarding). If an agency wishes to offer additional menu options
for further information, additional voice-mail boxes can be used (shown as boxes marked “Info” in the diagram).


                                                                 Caller

                      English                                  Main Greeting;                             Spanish
                       Menu                                  Language Selection                            Menu



       El Metro        El Aguila     Greyhound        El Conejo                      El Metro        El Aguila     Greyhound        El Conejo
       Message         Message       Message &        Message &                      Message         Message       Message &        Message &
       & Menu          & Menu          Menu             Menu                         & Menu          & Menu          Menu             Menu


        Info                       Info                                               Info                       Info
                                                      Info                                                                          Info
               Info                                                                          Info
                            Info                                                                          Info

                                          Greyhound                                                                     Greyhound
                                          Operator                                                                      Operator
   El Metro                                                                       El Metro
   Operator                                                                       Operator


                      El Aguila                  El Conejo                                          El Aguila                  El Conejo
                      Operator                   Operator                                           Operator                   Operator

				
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