The soonest Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus stops will be equipped with real-time technology is early 2014, Transit Director Ed King told the City Council Tuesday night.
King said he will ask the council in April or May to pick a contractor to install the first of 90 solar-powered electronic signs at 35 bus shelters. The signs will use GPS data to transmit accurate bus arrival times.
The roll-out was initially planned for December 2010, but was delayed because of software hiccups and budget issues.
King did not provide a target date for a real-time mobile app, saying “we did have some hiccups, we are working closely with [the Information Systems Department] on resolving that.”
That Santa Monica has fallen behind other cities, such as San Francisco, is a "little disappointing," City Councilman Kevin McKeown responded.
"I hear from people in Santa Monica [who say] 'we don’t mind taking the bus—we mind waiting for the bus,'" he said.
King and Jory Wolf, the city's chief information officer, last updated the council on Big Blue Bus technology upgrades in a December report. They said they were having trouble integrating the real-time technology software in the electronic signs with solar panels.
Additionally, several companies bid on the project in 2011, but they came in over the city's $6.5 million budget.
"If things go very quickly and we get a contractor on board, you would see those shelters and signs being installed around this time next year," King told the City Council on Tuesday. "That's kind of being optimistic."
Meanwhile, riders will have rely on a clunky "route wizard" on the Big Blue Bus website that provides real-time information within 60 minutes of a bus' arrival. If a rider is using the wizard outside of that time frame, it defaults to a printed schedule, which isn't always reliable.
The Big Blue Bus is working "very closely" with its vendor to it provides the information 3 to 4 hours out, King said.
Also scheduled to launch in the spring of next year are upgrades the buses' 14-year-old fare collection boxes. The boxes will be integrated with integration with other fare technology, including mobile ticketing and Metro's Transit Access Passes, called TAP.