CATA explores mobility options to enhance transit experience

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The Michigan Mobility Challenge, approved in October, funds transportation needs for veterans, seniors and those with disabilities. Michigan and its public services received $8 million, with $465,000 going to the Lansing area’s Capital Area Transportation Authority. It has received a grant to make new buses more accessible.

Eli Godin

Handicap seating area on CATA bus route 26.

CATA will use the money this spring in a partnership with the Ann Arbor company LookingBus, a new service that changes transport infrastructure and software as part of the Michigan Mobility Challenge.

Kathleen Maher, CATA’s marketing assistant, wrote in the LookingBus Newsletter that this system would allow those who use alternative transit methods a chance to use CATA’s buses instead. This technology would be applied to a small test fleet before full immersion, Maher said. Merging CATA’s transit app with LookingBus or others was not discussed.

Another part of CATA’s agenda this March involved plans to p̶u̶t̶ continue the use of automatic passenger counters on buses this year. Spending on the service and support of the technology would cost roughly $32,000, all buses included. InfoDev makes the counters that track how many riders come through the doors.

InfoDev’s APC sensor recessed on a door frame.

Sean Gleason, CATA’s IT director, said the devices are already on the fixed-route buses. However, Gleason said CATA wants to continue expanding and improving on these types of technologies.

“… We think the current fare system is a barrier and we are diligently looking at mobile payments and smart cards with an [account-based] system to remove that barrier,” Gleason said. Mobile apps for LookingBus and InfoDev will be similar.

Gleason said autonomous transit systems were not currently being tested on CATA buses.

(Editor’s note: After this story was posted, CATA Marketing Specialist Frederick Siler wrote, “CATA is open to the possibility of autonomous transportation, but we remain concerned about the safety implications on passengers and operators with this new technology. We do not currently deploy autonomous vehicles but will continue to monitor the industry for new developments regarding safety and regulations.”)

“CATA’s commitment to safety of both its drivers and passengers remains paramount and I think that’s a concern everyone who observes autonomous transportation is thinking about,” Gleason said.

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