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RFID Puts Montreal Transit on a New Route

Tracking city buses in real time improves service and increases ridership.
By John Edwards
Jun 18, 2008— Award Winner: Best Use of RFID in a Service

June 1, 2008—Montreal has often been described as North America's most cosmopolitan city: a combination of Old World style and sophistication mixed with New World excitement and innovation. Today, this culture blend is even evident in the city's mass transit system, where, with the help of RFID technology, buses now run with European efficiency and precision, and passengers are kept comfortable and informed.

As Montreal's reputation as a vibrant and livable city has grown over the past several years, so has its population. While rapid growth has invigorated the region's business, recreational and cultural activities, it has also flooded area streets, highways and bridges with private vehicles, slowing transportation to a crawl. To get Montreal moving again, public officials want more people to use public transit.

Responsibility for helping the Montreal area's public transit system meet the demands created by a growing population belongs to the regional transit agency, Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT). The organization, which reports directly to the Quebec provincial government, manages five commuter train lines, two regional bus routes, 15 bus terminals, 84 kilometers of reserved traffic lanes and 60 park-and-ride lots. The agency also is in charge of planning, improving and promoting public transit services in cooperation with 13 local transit authorities.

Although Montreal already has a large number of commuters riding on public transit—second in North America only to New York City—AMT felt there was still ample room for improvement. "We want to have even more people use transit," says Claude Carette, AMT's vice president of metropolitan infrastructures. Yet convincing people to abandon their vehicles for buses and trains would require something more than building new roads and rail lines. Technologies would be needed to make the public transit experience more convenient and comfortable. "We knew we would have to try new things," Carette says.

In 2006, as AMT began to address rapidly mounting street congestion problems, the agency's managers realized they needed to take swift action. They began by focusing on bus transportation. After analyzing the situation, the organization established three basic goals:

• Provide riders with real-time information to help them catch buses without spending any longer than necessary waiting for the bus to arrive.
• Offer supervisors insightful management tools that would help them better manage service disruptions caused by buses delayed due to accidents, traffic, weather and other events.
• Compile detailed and cumulative reports with data that could help planners improve route and personnel management, leading to better service, improved efficiency and cost savings.
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