Whither electronics upgrades for Metrobus?

The WMATA RFP for electronics upgrades for the Metrobus fleet, FQ11204/KAM (“Consolidation of On-Board Ancillary Bus Equipment (CoABE) And Fixed-End System (FeS)”) disappeared from WMATA’s web site some time in the past few weeks. So, what happened? Was the project cancelled, or is this merely an unfortunate clerical error?

I certainly hope the project hasn’t been cancelled, as while I haven’t written about it in detail (other than to mention its use of WMATA’s internal network), it’s actually a rather important project, and one that I would hope would go forward. Right now, transit buses, like those used by Metrobus, have a panoply of electronics up front: electronic destination signs, automatic voice announcement systems, automatic vehicle location terminals, the farebox, and even surveillance systems (although these usually require little operator intervention). Each system requires that the operator perform a setup procedure at the start of each run, and there’s no coordination between them. Last week, I was on a bus whose farebox though it was a C2; for the record, the bus was a J2 to Bethesda. And how often do we see buses with the wrong destination sign blinking away, or incorrect or inoperative automatic announcements? The concept of the CoABE and FeS project is to eliminiate all of that by providing bus operators with a single, unified interface. This improves the experience for riders by ensuring that all of the electronics on the bus are configured correctly—from the farebox to the destination sign to the automated announcements.

So, having put forth my pitch for the project, all I can say is I hope it’s still going forward, because while it may seem like an insignificant thing (who cares if all of the electronics on a bus talk to each other?) it’s actually quite a smart idea, and one which would have a positive impact for bus operators and riders alike.