PUBLIC TRANSIT: San Francisco begins field tests for fleet monitoring iPad app

Software would replace inefficient system of paper reports, street inspectors

September 14, 2012

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) began field tests last week on a new iPad app that could help better agency staff coordinate transit services across the city.

SMARTmuni was developed in 2011, with the NextBus GPS data system at its core. At a glance, Muni staff can see the locations, speed and direction of every vehicle in the fleet, along with the distance between them; the app then overlays this information with the schedule for each line.

If a problem occurs, drivers will radio the situation into the central office, which will then send out a text message alert to other Muni staff.

SMARTmuni is also expected to significantly reduce operating and maintenance costs, a bonus for the cash-strapped agency that has had to cut services several times in recent years.

At present, Muni utilizes radios, phones, a GPS tracking system and handwritten reports to manage its entire fleet of buses and streetcars. In many cases, street inspectors are posted at assorted locations with a printed schedule to ensure lines are running on time.

If the initial tests are successful, a more extensive pilot project could be launched within weeks.