Public Transit Technology Aids Sight & Hearing Impaired Riders

Public Transit for Sight ImpairedPublic transportation is a vital service. High-quality public transit can revolutionize a community by providing efficient access to all that the city has to offer. It can provide independence, community participation, and productivity for those who could not otherwise safely operate a vehicle, including people who are sight and hearing impaired.

Most mass transit systems are primarily visually oriented—signs are posted, bus numbers are listed, and safety information is written throughout terminals. Similarly, safety and route announcements are often conveyed via intercoms. Although blind, visually impaired, and hearing-impaired individuals are still able to use public transit, a lack of access to potentially important and useful information can become a barrier to utilizing mass transit. Fortunately, innovative new technologies, such as an Internet for public transit vehicles, are working to eliminate such barriers.

Innovative Transit Technology for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Innovative technology has greatly improved public transit for the blind and visually impaired. Interactive web-based software allows people to plan their routes via smart phones and other devices. GPS, accessed via Internet WiFi for traveling trains and buses, enables riders to monitor progress via their cell phones. GPS can also audibly announce stops and announce vehicle information at bus stops. Infrared and radio transmitters can also make it possible for visual messaging to be heard by visually impaired passersby. Information kiosks may also have audible and tactile maps, and ticket machines may have vocal output.

It may not be so far into the future that robots will help the visually impaired in mass transit terminals. Aaron Steinfeld, an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh, reports that he and others are working on a project incorporating robots, smartphones, mobile applications and more into a system to help the blind navigate complicated and unfamiliar urban environments. In the meantime, WiFi systems can help support new smart phone technology and remove mass transit access barriers.

Hearing Impaired Individuals and Uber

Hearing impaired riders often have a different set of public transportation obstacles that can be easily amended through new technology. To understand how their public transit needs could be met, let’s consider how one private company is accommodating hearing-impaired users. Uber is a transport company that connects riders with drivers securely through an app, which allows individuals to find and connect with nearby drivers. There are no cash transactions; everything is done through the convenient app, and riders can rate their drivers.

There is one catch, however. Hearing-impaired individuals have had specific frustrations with the app, as it is not very compatible with their needs. Newly added Uber features include a flashing screen for trip requests, the option for deaf drivers or riders to have a text only option, and notifications for riders when their driver is deaf or hard of hearing. These updates allow hearing-impaired individuals to access Uber as drivers and passengers, fluidly. Similar technology can be added to web-based transit software to accommodate hearing-impaired riders.

New technology and the investment in innovation are widening the opportunity for diverse range of humans to participate in navigating the vast world of mass transit!

[Photo by RadioTripPictures via CC License]

When it Comes to Student Motorcoach Travel, Safety First!

Motorcoach TravelStudents represent 25% of all motorcoach passenger trips in North America, according to the Student and Youth Travel Association. Motorcoach travel allows young people to visit historic and cultural sites across the U.S. and Canada at far lower costs than other modes of transit. According to the 2010 Motorcoach Census, 99.5 million passenger trips were provided to student tour groups by the motorcoach industry in the U.S. and Canada. With improved amenities such as private and public motor coach wifi, motorcoach travel is staying competitive. Being connected to the Internet on the go makes travel more fun, entertaining, and engaging for students.

Of course, before a student group leaves on a Motorcoach adventure, significant planning must take place. Where is the group headed? How many students will attend? Where and when will stops occur? And of course, how much will it all cost? Student safety is first and foremost among considerations Today we’re reviewing motorcoach safety issues, and providing tips on how to keep Motorcoach travel safe for students.

Including Safety in Trip Planning

When considering which motorcoach company to choose, keep in mind that they can vary greatly in quality and pricing. Unfortunately there is not a hard and fast rule, such as the age of the vehicle. Ultimately, safety isn’t free. Operators that are safety-conscious invest a lot of time, energy, and funds in maintenance to ensure that every possible issue be discovered and resolved before hitting the road. Regular maintenance must be conducted, and thorough safety checks must be carried out before each trip. Drivers are trained to meticulously inspect the vehicle each day it is on the road. If a motorcoach company skimps on maintenance or repairs, the chance that the coach will break down or become otherwise unsafe is greatly increased. Therefore, when planning a student motorcoach trip, it’s key to check into the safety practices of each prospective travel company. Your vetting process should include looking up motorcoach agencies’ USDOT identification numbers and searching for safety records online using these ID numbers.

Another safety issue to consider is that your itinerary matches up with the driver’s limits. As a general rule, motorcoach drivers are expected to drive up to 500 miles in one workday. In total, the drivers needs time prepping the vehicle for departure, two hours each day for meals, and two hours at the destination for dropping off passengers and securing the vehicle. If a driver is asked to spend more than 10 hours per day driving, there are a multitude of potential safety concerns. There are stringent laws barring this as a result.

Violations of these driving limitations can result in $10,000 fines for the driver and the motorcoach company. Make sure to work your selected motorcoach company to tailor your itinerary to meet the needs of your group as well as the highest safety standards of the motorcoach industry. You can start your search for a reputable company on the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) or American Bus Associations (ABA) websites.

Looking Forward: Planning with Your Students In Mind.

When traveling with student groups it is important to set expectations and have activities available. Prep your students ahead of time and again once on board the vehicle for the rules they are expected to follow as a motorcoach passenger. Within the United Motorcoach Association’s Student Motorcoach Travel Safety Guide you can find a list of Rules for Schools during motorcoach travel. This handy list can be presented to students as behavioral expectations.

On a lighter note, make good use of newly available WiFi for motorcoach travel industries, if available on your chosen carrier. As your group visits historical or cultural sites, you can assign on-the-go research assignments for students to conduct while traveling. The sky is the limit with private motorcoach WiFi. With WiFi access, students can keep in touch with family and friends, play games as a group, entertain themselves, and research important educational topics. Happy Trails!

[Photo by ToGa Wanderings via CC License]

Are Philadelphia’s Millennials Shaping Public Transit Travel Trends?

Millenial Bus WiFiMillennials are a very different breed than Baby Boomers. As an example, Baby Boomers are likely to decompress upon arrival at a hotel room. In contrast, Millennials—typically defined as 18 to 34 year olds—are more prone to immediately access in-room WiFi. Online connectivity is a must-have for these younger travelers, who prefer to share travel stories on the go. Likewise, they expect instant gratification, accurate booking, and one-stop shopping, all from their handheld devices.

This up-and-coming generation is shaping the future of public transit. The 95 million Millennials in the U.S. will make up the bulk of the country’s workforce by 2025. Cities that hope to attract vibrant, young talent will need to cater to Millennials’ preferences—including their predilection for effective transit. A recent national survey found that 66% of Millennials included high quality transportation as a crucial factor in deciding where to live. That support for public transportation stems in part from the fact that Millennials are the most educated generation ever. Those with college degrees generally appreciate the conceptual reasons for maintaining strong transit, including serving under-resourced populations. Moreover, Millennials carry an average of $23,000 debt per person, so they are more willing than Baby Boomers to forgo car ownership. Their attraction to urban car-free lifestyles over suburban car commutes also supports transit.

Another clear trend among Millennials is their fondness for technology. Portland’s DHM Research has found that 47% of Millennials wouldn’t willingly give up their phones. Apps that marry convenience with on-the-go access are popular among this age bracket. For transit agencies, this means apps that allow riders to buy and redeem fares on their phones. Such public transit mobile WiFi technology also benefits transit agencies, who are able to track multiple data, such as real-time ridership statistics, for real-time capacity adjustments. With mobile WiFi hotspots providing Internet for public transit vehicles, agencies can create an interconnected web of service, with every vehicle perennially connected to management hubs. (For more information, check out SinglePoint Communications’ in-vehicle connectivity solutions.)

In general, Millennials are multimodal; they select the best transit option for each trip. Biking and walking are on the list of urban Millennials’ transit options. To understand how this might be impacting transit, let’s take a look at a case study: Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit system. While the American Public Transportation Association’s 2014 ridership report found increased national ridership, Philadelphia’s transit system actually saw a slight decrease of 2% last year. In Philly, trolley ridership fell by 4%, and bus ridership was down 3% in 2014. Commuter rail ridership increased 2%. These statistics could be due to the fact that more and more Philly Millennials are bike commuting into the city center. Center City reports that bike commuting into Philadelphia has increased 33.4% from 2012 to 2014.

Fortunately, SEPTA ridership is up more recently, according to system reports. SEPTA has found a 1.3% increase in ridership over the first seven months of the 2015 fiscal year. That bump appears to be driven by regional rail (up 3.8%) and suburban transit (up 3.2%). So far, city transit is up just .6%.

To achieve ongoing ridership increases, we recommend that SEPTA and other urban transit groups add public transit mobile WiFi. Given Millennials’ hunger to stay forever online, WiFi access on buses and trains can only add public transit appeal. Moreover, those who have longer commutes into the city will be more likely to ditch their cars if they can access WiFi on the way.

[Photo by Carissa Rogers via CC License]

ABA Forms Bus Maintenance & Repair Council (BusMARC) for Motorcoach Industry

American Bus AssociationIn June 2015 the American Bus Association (ABA) announced the formation of a new council: The Bus Maintenance and Repair Council, called BusMARC. This exciting new council will support motorcoach companies of all sizes in collaborating on maintenance and repair issues. The ABA intends for BusMARC to bring together experts in the field to advise on top maintenance matters and to support all motorcoach companies.

Evidence shows that regular maintenance cycles maximize vehicle safety. The ABA created BusMARC following discussions on prioritizing maintenance as a key safety component. ABA Chairman John Meier remarked, “Motorcoach safety and maintenance go hand in hand. ABA is pleased that once again we can take a significant leadership role in the industry with the formation of BusMARC that benefits our members and the traveling public.”

BusMARC will also work to improve the relationship between the businesses that make and supply replacement parts to the industry, the motorcoach owners/operators, the Original Equipment Manufactures (OEMs), the company maintenance directors, and the operations staff. This collaborative method will support developing the most efficient and productive approach to expert maintenance cycles. BusMARC will bring together these experts to collaborate on maintenance issues, with a goal of improved safety for all bus travelers.

All motorcoach owners, operators, maintenance professionals, shop supervisors, and leaders in other parts of the industry are all invited to join BusMARC. The first meeting of BusMARC will be held, January 9-12, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.

At that meeting, we won’t be surprised if WiFi for private charters is a major topic of discussion. As with trains and public buses, private charter WiFi can improve safety in several ways. First, consistent WiFi connectivity allows improved communication with charter hubs, allowing for faster emergency response. Additionally, WiFi can support CCTV, for on-board video streaming of any safety incidents that may occur. Finally, driver training can zoom into the twenty first century with streaming WiFi video; driver records can be analyzed for potential areas of improvement.

As BusMARC gets off the ground, you can bet that private charter mobile WiFi will be one of the new group’s first priorities.

[Image Courtesy of ABA]

Gen-X & Millennial RV Travel: Taking Cool on the Road with RV Internet

Millenial RV Internet & TravelRV Travel is traditionally thought of as a hobby for retirees. For decades, RVs have been marketed mainly as vacation vehicles for the Baby Boomer generation. However, this conventional image of life in an RV has shifted in the past few years, as 18 to 35 year-olds seek adventure and freedom on the road with all the comforts of home—including WiFi access. As on-the-go mobile hotspots allow reliable WiFi for RV travelers, more and more Millennials are drawn to the RV lifestyle. Millennials are often more attracted to life on the road and less attached to the idea of working 9 to 5 jobs for mega corporations.

RV living can be a more affordable way for these younger generations to have the whimsical, adventurous existence they crave. RV living is often more affordable than paying rent in an urban metropolis, and a home on wheels allows them to explore the diversity and beauty of the hippest cities in the United States. As a result, Millennials are the fastest growing group of RV buyers, changing the face of RV travel in this country.

What’s Hot: RV Travel and Technology

In today’s world, increasing numbers of Millennials are enjoying careers that allow them to work remotely, anywhere with WiFi access. Many of these young people work in the tech industry, as software engineers and web developers, IT support, and computer programmers. Such careers provide incredible flexibility in one’s schedule and work environment.

Similarly, a lot of creative types are able to work remotely in fields such as graphic design, freelance writing, photography, and even fashion blogging. With wireless WiFi for RV travel, these techies and creative types can “live the dream” on the road! The technology of RV Internet is a game-changer for those who embrace the simplicity, adventure, and scenery of RV living.

New RV Marketing Approach: Social Media

RV Travel can be a fantastic way to share blogs, articles and travelogues of RV journeys. In the age of social media, there has never been a better time to travel the country and share these adventures with the world. While younger generations share their RV travel with friends and family via social media sites, RV manufacturers are shifting their marketing tactics toward online outlets.

At a Power Breakfast meeting of RV Industry workers last March, RV Industry Association (RVIA) president Richard Coon commented that the RV business has marketed to Baby Boomers for the last 20 years. For the past five, the industry has shifted its focus to the younger generations. RVIA research has found that Millennials are more likely to conduct product research via smartphone and computer. As such, Coon explains that RV business owners are “focusing on social medias…making sure that every mobile device can get into our websites.”

With RV Internet available, Millennials can work, play, and stay in touch while enjoying life on the road. Our WiFi in Motion Mobile WiFi solution offers an easy-to-install, dependable RV Internet solution that provides lightening-speed WiFi anytime, anywhere. With such connectivity technology available, more and more young folks are utilizing RV Internet to share their free-spirited, fun-filled lives with the world, and making good money while doing it.

[Photo by Joris Louwes via CC License]

SinglePoint Gives Back with Mobile WiFi & Connects Communities

Bus WifiSinglePoint’s goal is to keep you connected wherever you are. We also believe that staying connected with the community is just as important. While we participate in several philanthropic events and there is one in particular that we’d like to share with you!

Estella’s Brilliant Bus

Estella’s Brilliant Bus is a nonprofit organization based in Florida. The vision of former migrant worker and lifelong educator Estella Mims Pyform, the Brilliant Bus travels through Palm Beach County to bring educational opportunities to underprivileged children and families who have limited access to technologies, like Internet-connected computers.

The Brilliant Bus collaborates with community agencies to provide educational services, such as homework help, standardized test preparation, GED preparation, computer training, college preparation and early childhood education. The participants’ parents and guardians receive pass codes so the children can continue their lessons from home. If a family doesn’t have a computer, they have the opportunity to purchase an affordable laptop and apply for low-cost Internet services.

How SinglePoint Helped with Mobile WiFi Systems

We understand that communication is vital. SinglePoint recognized this and it was our honor to donate bus WiFi to Estella’s Brilliant Bus.

Top 5 RV Park Destinations for Wine Lovers

RV Internet Wine CountryPicture this: Rolling hills glowing in the sunset; the company of your loved ones; and a glass of vino swirling in your hand. What’s in the background of this wine country fantasy? Perhaps you envision a pricey resort. But why not an RV? Given the posh appliances and amenities in the modern recreational vehicle, wine country RV travel can be comfortable and luxurious, especially if you add RV Internet.

Indeed, Wireless WiFi for RV travel and vinophilia are a natural pairing. Wine aficionados enjoy looking up facts about the soils, conditions, and genetics behind a truly great sip. Having WiFi on board allows wine enthusiasts to research each vineyard along the way. Plus, with your home away from home with you, it’s easy to linger in that charming valley, perhaps Googling a nearby RV park to relax for the night.

If you’d rather plan your trip across wine country, the following RV parks make excellent respites.

Top RV Parks for Wine Enthusiasts

  1. Wine Country RV Park, Sonoma Grove, California

Northern California is one of earth’s most popular wine destinations, due the area’s established reputation for world-class wine. Wine Country RV Park is well equipped and in the heart of the fertile Sonoma County wine country. In Healdsburg, at the Gary Farrell Winery you will find award winning pinots, while at the nearby Matanzas Creek Winery, you will find delicious wines and gorgeous views. These two wineries, along with many others in the area, await you!

  1. Horn Rapids RV Resort, Richland, Washington

Columbia Valley wine country, in the tri-cities area of Washington State, has been building its reputation as a fantastic wine destination over the last decade. The area’s loamy soil’s mineral content is well suited to wine grapes. Within a 100-mile radius of Horn Rapids RV Resort you’ll find nearly 50 wineries and abundant water activities for the whole family to enjoy.

  1. Wine Country RV Resort, Paso Robles, California

Like the Columbia Valley, the popularity and reputation Central Coast region of California is growing as a wine lovers’ destination. Paso Robles develops its delicious wine grapes in limestone soil and long hot summers. With 170 nearby wineries and 40 different grape variations, the Wine Country RV resort is a great place to hook up and relax as you sample what the region has to offer. You can also visit the beautiful Pacific Ocean, which is about an hour’s drive away.

4. Grand Junction KOA, Grand Junction, Colorado

Colorado is another potentially surprising wine destination, but the Grand Valley area, with its plentiful orchards of cherry, apple, and peach, makes an ideal climate for wine grapes. Try to visit the Grand Junction KOA RV resort in late summer and tour vineyards as the grapes are being harvested. There are also great hiking, biking and hunting attractions in the area.

5. Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort, Bath, New York

If you find yourself east of the Mississippi, consider visiting New York’s Finger Lakes region. The local climate and limestone/slate soils sustain excellent wineries. Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort is a great place to visit to enjoy the nearly 100 wineries in the region. In addition to touring beautiful wineries, the resort itself offers an abundance of fun family activities, including laser tag, mini-golf, and wagon rides. It even has a spa! Let the kids enjoy the fun and games while you and your sweetie enjoy the spa and wine tasting throughout the region.

These 5 destinations are but the tip of the winery iceberg, as it were. If you have RV Internet, you can easily look up more wine lovers’ destinations in your current region. It’s helpful to have WiFi for RV-ing through wine country, because you can search the World Wide Web for information on wine types, growing areas, and accessible RV parks. Enjoy comfort and unlimited knowledge on your next wine getaway; take your RV, and make sure you have WiFi on board.

[Photo by Francesco Sgroi via CC License]

Public Transit Safety Gets Boost from Mobile WiFi Solutions [Infographic]

Public Transit Mobile WiFiOver 128,000 transit vehicles from 7,300 transportation agencies provided nearly 11 billion rides in 2013. As the population grows and more people move to larger cities, ridership across all modes of public transit—from buses to paratransit solutions—is on the rise. Not only does increased ridership help decrease traffic congestion, it also promotes individual safety, according to a 2014 article in the Journal of Public Transportation

This infographic examines ridership growth across the U.S. and the agencies that help make using public transportation a safe option with driver training, standards programs and technologies like public transit mobile WiFi. With solutions that provide real-time data, video feeds and training opportunities thanks to public transit WiFi, SinglePoint is helping the country’s public transit providers and passengers stay safe one mobile WiFi connection at a time.

Public Transit Mobile WiFi Safety

Can WiFi on Trains Decrease Public Transit Emergencies?

Amtrak Recent events have focused attention on how passengers can protect themselves during transit emergencies. Earlier this year, a Metrolink conductor was killed, five Metrolink train cars were derailed, and 31 passengers were injured when the L.A.-bound train hit a truck and trailer stuck on the tracks. According to local news reports, dazed passengers exited the derailed trains by walking on the walls of cars that had been tipped sideways in the crash.

Although the driver of the truck, Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez, was initially charged with fatal hit-and-run, those charges have been dropped. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, Sanchez-Ramirez’ actions were accidental. While driving a Ford 450 and an attached utility trailer, Sanchez-Ramirez took a wrong turn onto the tracks, apparently intending to turn onto the railroad right of way. He continued driving for 80 feet on the tracks, until his truck became lodged, at which point Sanchez-Ramirez turned on his emergency lights and exited the vehicle.

Beyond researching why the accident occurred, NTSB researchers continue to investigate how to prevent future crashes. Federal investigators may continue their work for up to a year, looking for ways to increase rail safety. A recent NTSB Safety Alert identifies the close proximity of LED and incandescent safety lights; as LED lights are generally brighter, they may appear closer, confusing crewmembers. Upon conclusion of the Metrolink crash investigation, the NTSB may release new safety alerts.

Until that time, passengers can protect themselves by understanding how to respond to a transit emergency.

Transit Emergencies: How Passengers can Protect Themselves

  1. Await instructions from the crew. Scott Sauer, chief systems safety officer for the Southwest Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, explains, “Crews know the equipment best and have been trained to safely remove passengers from vehicles should the situation warrant evacuation.” Moreover, transit employees are in contact with transportation control centers, so they can signal for the dispatch of emergency responders who may be needed for tasks such as cutting electricity to electrified third rails.
  1. If crew assistance is not available, exit via marked emergency exits. Read railcar emergency exit instructions, clearly displayed on emergency windows are doors.
  1. Exit according to the location of the accident. Passengers’ next steps will depend upon where the emergency occurred. If the accident was within a tunnel, passengers must walk to the closest emergency exit and get above ground as soon as possible. If the accident occurred at the station, passengers should vacate to the platform. And if the incident is confined to just one car, passengers should move to the next cars.
  1. Beware adjacent tracks when evacuating. After checking for approaching trains, Sauer advises passengers to “carefully walk over the tracks and away from the train as quickly and safely as possible.”

The national rail safety education organization OLI (Operation Lifesaver Inc.) points out that the majority of train related fatalities occur when individuals behave in an unsafe manner around train crossings. As such, OLI delivers national public outreach campaigns to encourage safe, careful behavior around train crossings.

WiFi on trains can also help boost safety. Indeed, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, which oversees Metrolink, is unveiling the nation’s first Positive Train Control (PTC) system this spring. As we discussed in a previous blog on train WiFi and PTC, GPS and WiFi empower PTC systems to “take over” when train drivers are not in line with speed guidelines. PTC acts like an autopilot, preventing derailments and collisions caused by human error. (However, even with PTC, trains cannot stop on a dime. The February Metrolink crash could not have been prevented with PTC.)

Trains with WiFi can also deliver public safety messages via advertisements. Our own SingleREV software is designed to deliver advertisements in exchange for complimentary passenger WiFi. WiFi-enabled trains can help increase public safety knowledge by requiring passengers to watch train safety ads prior to their onboard Internet sessions.

[Photo by Chad Kainz via CC License]

VTA Pioneers Public Transit Innovation in California

VTA Innovation CenterOn February 18th, transportation technology specialists from across Silicon Valley attended the grand opening for Santa Clara VTA’s new Innovation Center. SinglePoint Communication representatives took in the impressive new space, which was formerly a lunchroom and conference area. The modest room, with space enough for about ten desks, is now replete with technological gadgetry, including big screen TVs and digital workstations. The VTA aims for the Innovation Center to act as a hub where the agency can rethink how it delivers bus, rail, roadway, and other transportation services.

We were thrilled to be present for the unveiling of this new center, which will serve multiple purposes:

–It will be a living laboratory for testing new technologies in the transit field.
–The innovation center will facilitate partnerships with regional academics, startups, tech firms and nonprofits.
–It will also operate the Santa Clara VTA’s open data portal, which provides access to the agency’s operational data.
–The center will facilitate research collaboration with regional transportation organizations, including the Mineta Transportation Institute of San Jose State University, and the San Jose Environmental Innovation Center.
Finally, the Innovation Center will encourage synergistic work with civic hackers and tech startups. For instance, on June 6th, the agency will celebrate the National Day of Civic Hacking with Hack my Ride 2015, a hackathon to create data visualizations, apps, and prototypes to enhance the VTA transit experience.

Advancements from the center will be elaborated in the real world. For instance, at the Innovation Center’s grand opening, San Jose Vice Mayor and VTA board member suggested that innovations from the new center will likely be tested in the North San Jose Transportation Innovation Zone, an 11-mile stretch known as testing grounds for Google’s self-driven cars. Herrera explained, “This [Innovation Center] will allow innovators to emulate real-world conditions for the testing of, for example, self-driving vehicles, automated traffic enforcement, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, street light innovations, and sensors for collecting data on traffic, noise and air quality.”

As the public transit WiFi providers for Santa Clara VTA, we were on hand to celebrate the center’s opening. Our public transit WiFi solutions were used in the world’s first all-4G WiFi transit communication system, for Santa Clara VTA buses and light rail. And our in-vehicle connectivity solutions, using GPS and SingleTRAK software, have allowed Santa Clara VTA to release an innovative new rider app that shows the real-time location of light rail trains. We look forward to watching the agency push transit technology boundaries in the upcoming years, via new the Innovation Center.

[Photo Courtesy of VTA]