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Clemson Area Transit teams with N.C. firm on new app

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By Matthew Clark
mclark@scbiznews.com
Published Dec. 1, 2015

A partnership between an area transit authority and a North Carolina-based technology company has yielded an advancement in the information provided to passengers.

Clemson Area Transit, or Catbus, recently initiated a program that allows riders to see the exact location of any particular bus and even see how full the bus is. All can be done from a computer, mobile phone or tablet.

Clemson Area Transit CEO Al Babinicz shows a map of the Catbus system in real time. The technology is a result of a partnership between Catbus and TransLoc. (Photo by Matthew Clark)
Clemson Area Transit CEO Al Babinicz shows a map of the Catbus system in real time. The technology is a result of a partnership between Catbus and TransLoc. (Photo by Matthew Clark)
“It’s the future, and there’s a demand for it, especially for the riding public,” said Catbus CEO Al Babinicz. “It’s an emerging technology and it helps us be more efficient.”

Catbus partnered with Durham, N.C.-based TransLoc on development and implementation of the new app and website attachment. TransLoc has worked on app development with transit authorities such as Triangle Transit in Raleigh-Durham.

The app combines the company’s TransLoc Rider, which shows the location of buses in real time, with TransLoc OnDemand, which integrates with Rider to provide map-based live tracking of all buses operating for Catbus.

The newest part of the technology is the addition of real-time capacity percentages on the app. Riders can see at what percentage of capacity each bus is, so they know if they have a seat or not.

In the first four days after releasing the app on the market, Babinicz said Catbus had 10,000 downloads.

“We are known for our creative and innovative solutions to transportation problems,” Babinicz said. “Now, riders never have to ask ‘where’s my bus?’ ”

Startup costs for the new app, including technical support, hardware and software was approximately $180,000. Babinicz said a federal grant covered $150,000 of the cost, with the remaining $30,000 coming from Catbus.

“We wanted to work with TransLoc because they are experts in the field,” Babinicz said. “From the time we got the funding to the time we went public was just a matter of months.”

With the OnDemand system, riders can watch their bus live on a map and receive notifications when it is approaching. Coupled with the Rider function, Catbus riders can get updates on routes and get arrival predictions.

Rebecca Cooper, spokeswoman for TransLoc said the company felt that partnering with an agency such as Catbus was a good way to showcase the transit technology, especially because of Catbus’ service to Clemson University.

“One of the things we do is partner with a lot of different agencies and we look at ways to make transit more efficient,” Cooper said. “As a company we want to take transit as a last resort to a first choice, and students are a great way to start that.”

The new GPS-based system is also accessible from Catbus’ website, www.catbus.com. Riders can find the real-time bus locator, which is a larger form of what riders see on the app version. All eight of the Catbus routes are accessible, including the all-electric Seneca Express. Riders can track each bus by route or bus number via computer. The program also allows each of the routes to be displayed all together or one at a time.

Babinicz said there has been interest by some businesses in Clemson, Seneca and Central to have the live tracking website up on a screen in their establishments so patrons can follow routes and individual buses. He said Toscana, a restaurant in Central, and the Marriott Courtyard in Clemson may be the first to place screens up.

“We will use that as a model for other businesses in the area,” Babinicz said.

He said Catbus is in the process of undergoing a “reimaging study” to look at different ways technology can be used to help the nearly 2 million yearly passengers of the authority.

“We want to see how we can improve the transportation industry,” Babinicz said. “We’re looking at buses and even other technology to do that.”

The partnership with TransLoc could also yield new fruit off the innovation vine for Catbus.

“We’ve really had a great experience working with Catbus, and there have been other agencies that have asked about some of the technology,” Cooper said. “As a company, we do have other things in the pipeline, and that would provide additional opportunities to partner with Catbus and help them continue to meet the needs of the communities.”

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-235-5677, ext. 107, or on Twitter @matthewclark76.

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