Did you celebrate GIS Day yesterday?

Yesterday was the 10th annual GIS Day. Never heard of GIS Day, you say? Me neither, until yesterday. Capital Metro, of course, uses GIS (Geographic Information Systems) everyday for route planning, safety and risk management, etc. When you use our online trip planner or Google Transit to plan a trip on a Capital Metro bus, GIS is the underlying technology that makes it possible (in addition to the efforts of some smart programmers and planners at Capital Metro).

Meet Capital Metro’s Arc Users Group: Ed Easton, Van Sutherland, Meredith Highsmith, Jenn Golech, Thomas Tsang, and James Gamez

GIS Day is about increasing understanding of the real-world applications of GIS technology. The Capital Metro Arc Users Group–a cadre of planners, risk managers, and others who use GIS or are interested in its applications–hosted a GIS Day celebration for all of Capital Metro, highlighting the many ways we depend upon the technology.

Honestly, it wasn’t boring, and I’m not a transit nerd or geographer. It was almost fascinating, really. One of the demonstrations was by GIS Coordinator Van Sutherland. Van developed the Capital Metro Transit Stops system geodatabase, which allows you to view all of our 3,000+ bus stops, including a photograph and a list of the stop amenities, as well as what times a bus will be arriving, according to the schedule. You can check it out here.

Van created the interface about three years ago. His work saves our planning team a considerable amount of time, because before, the planners needed to consult many sources of information in order to plot routes and plan stops. Van notes, “Now they can use a single interface.”

11 thoughts on “Did you celebrate GIS Day yesterday?

  1. Don Dickson

    Is this the same technology that announces our arrival at Sixth & Congress when we're approaching Lamar & Rundberg? 🙂

    Coupled with displaying the incorrect time?

  2. chrysrobyn

    Does that mean y'all know them well enough to ask why they don't have any bus stations north of the Pavillion Park & Ride, like Lakeline Mall and the Leander Park & Ride?

  3. Erica McKewen


    The announcements are created by an ‘annunciator’ system, which is separate from our GIS systems. The geographic locations of bus stops, which are stored in our GIS system, are loaded into the annunciator. Each route is then programmed individually, with the stops entered in the correct sequence, along with distances between those stops. The announcements are triggered based on distance traveled, determined by odometer. Errors can happen if a route is detoured, or if a bus on one route is diverted to another route.

    Ideally, an on-board GPS should check the location at each stop, but depending on the age of the vehicle, and its GPS equipment, this may not function properly in all locations. It could be that your bus had a malfunctioning GPS, or the wrong destination code had been entered. Capital Metro is currently testing AVL (Automated Vehicle Locator) technology, which could be used in the future to trigger an announcement based on precise geographic locations, thereby eliminating the errors common in our current system.

    If the clock time is wrong, it has to be manually reset. This error usually occurs in older buses, which do not automatically reset for changes in Daylight Savings Time.

    In either case, if you notice the signage is wrong on a bus, please send us the bus number and the time at which you boarded, so we can investigate/fix the problem.

  4. Don Dickson

    Thanks Erica, I will do that. No information is better than wrong information. The incorrect location announcements don’t bother me, I can see perfectly well where we are, but they’re a cruel joke on the blind and the out-of-towners. And I’ve been complaining for months about displaying the incorrect time. That has more potential to be a cruel joke on me.

  5. Don Dickson

    Erica: Bus No. 8912 displaying incorrect time as of 10:24 a.m. this morning on the Drag.

    (Query: If correcting the displayed time is a matter of manually setting it, then why am I doing this? Why can’t CM simply instruct all drivers to check the displayed time when they leave the garage? But hey, I’ll do it if that’s what it takes.)

  6. Don Dickson

    Erica: Bus No. 8902 displaying the incorrect time when I boarded at Congress & Riverside at 8:50 a.m. today.

    This was not a daylight savings time problem, it was 35 minutes off.

  7. Erica McKewen

    I’ve reported those two bus numbers, and have also inquired about the process of checking the clock and annunciator systems before the buses leave the yard. I don’t know enough about the process to answer Don’s question (yet!).

  8. martin

    Thanks for bringing up this issue Don. I think this is very annoying, and as Don pointed out, unhelpful to those who really need the announcements, when they are so far off. I’ve ridden on many buses, for miles where the announcements were obviously incorrect. The drivers always seem content on ignoring the incorrect announcements and time displays. This seems to me to be an issue of laziness or poor training on the driver’s part. Can’t they just manually turn off the announcements if they are incorrect and wait for a layover to correct them? This is one of those small but a serious issue that makes people have a bad perception of drivers and the public transportation experience in general.
    Also, if we do want to get people with visual and other impairments who need these types of messaging on fixed route and off of expensive door-to-door services (access) then we need to take these messages and the time display very seriously. Let’s make sure the drivers are getting trained about these issues properly.

  9. Don Dickson

    To be fair to CM I thought I’d post this message to point out that every bus I have boarded since 11/28 — which is sometimes five or six buses per day — has been displaying the correct time. Waytago CM!

    One exception, there was one bus that wasn’t displaying the time at all, but that’s better than displaying the incorrect time.

    Good job folks.

  10. Pingback: Van Sutherland on GIS and Capital Metro « Capital MetroBlog

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