Transportation

Metro Tries A High-Tech Way To Keep Buses Running On Time

“Bus Bunching” is a common complaint for many transit riders. That’s when buses get off-schedule and follow each other on the same route.

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Metro bus in downtown Houston.
Metro hopes computer- aided dispatching will help keep buses on schedule.

A bus in Houston can easily get stopped at a railroad crossing or maybe it loses time because of detours. Then you have a situation where the next bus is following directly behind it.

To keep buses evenly spaced, Metro’s Tom Lambert says they’re now trying computer-aided dispatch. They’re doing it at Houston Transtar, the region’s traffic control center.

“So you’re going to see us go through a cultural change where the controllers at Transtar almost become ground traffic controllers,” says Lambert. “It’s like the FAA, where they’re watching all the airplanes. We’re going to start doing that by how we’re managing the fleet.”

Lambert says they’re now using the computer dispatch system on Houston’s busiest route. That’s the 82 Westheimer, which has buses running every six minutes during peak periods.

“You’ll have a bus that will get too close, where it’s not that six-minute gap,” says Lambert. “They’ll be able to then slow them down.”

After testing the system on Westheimer, Lambert says they’ll look to expand to all the city’s high-frequency routes.

Another new initiative Metro is exploring is bike lockers at transit centers, where riders can secure their bicycles if they’re not bringing them on a bus or train. Lambert says they’re now looking at a pilot program at the Burnett Transit Center north of downtown.

He says a committee plans to discuss the issue next month.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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