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Chapel Hill Transit bus trackers delayed again, scheduled for November


A Chapel Hill Transit bus drives down South Road on Sept. 12, 2022.

The delivery of bus tracking modems to Chapel Hill Transit has been delayed again.

Originally scheduled to arrive last year, the shipment was delayed first until September of this year. Now, it is expected to arrive in November. 

According to a press release from the Town of Chapel Hill, a schedule for the installation of the equipment will be released when the shipment arrives.

Chapel Hill Transit director Brian Litchfield said the modems are important because they communicate with satellites to pinpoint the location of the bus and allow riders to predict when the bus will arrive at a stop.

Litchfield added that the previous bus-tracking system via the NextBus app used modems installed over 15 years ago that relied on 3G networks, which many cellular companies have recently phased out.

“It's a very nice system that we've been very pleased with, up until recently,” Litchfield said.

Litchfield said the manufacturer has been unable to obtain the parts needed to develop the modems due to supply chain issues. The new 4G NextBus modems will take about a week to install once they arrive.

A new bus tracking system from GMV Syncromatics will be installed early next year,  Litchfield said.

In the meantime, local residents and students have had to navigate the Chapel Hill Transit system without the ability to track buses in real time.

“People rely on that to make sure they can make their bus on time if there's a delay or something,” Chapel Hill Town Council member Michael Parker said.

Parker said that the tracking system benefits riders as long as it works, but that it can cause problems once people become reliant on it and it stops working.

Litchfield said that transit schedules can be a good approximation of when a bus might arrive at a given stop, but that they do not tell riders about the exact location of the bus, whether it is on time or if the bus is taking a detour.

“NextBus will tell you 'Hey, that bus is coming in five minutes,'" he said. "Then it says, 'Well, it's coming in seven.'"

He added that bus tracking software is important for students who are new to the area. In the past, many of them have learned about NextBus when they arrive in Chapel Hill, he said.

UNC senior James Odametey said he rides Chapel Hill Transit almost every day. He said that buses often do not come at their scheduled time.

“If we had better bus tracking software, I think a lot of students would be a lot more satisfied with how the bus system works here, because, I mean, it is good,” Odametey said. “And I know Chapel Hill Transit is struggling a little bit, but I mean, we have to get to places where you gotta be.”

UNC sophomore Devin Li said he rides the bus daily. He said that a bus tracking system would reduce the amount of time it takes for him to get between points on campus.

“I wouldn't have to wait 15 minutes for the bus to come because I don't know when the bus is coming,” Li said.  

Litchfield said he understands that a bus tracking system makes Chapel Hill Transit easier to use. He said that once the bus tracking modems arrive, there will be several months of testing, followed by a rollout of the new bus tracking system to the public.

@DTHCityState | 

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