Zonar App Helps School Buses Track Student Passengers

Zonar App Helps School Buses Track Student Passengers

The school year is starting up in districts all across the country, and many bus companies are implementing new measures to keep students safe as they travel to and from school. In densely-populated urban areas, it’s particularly important for school bus drivers to be able to accurately track students and make sure they reach their destinations safely.

That’s why Zonar, a Seattle-based fleet management company, is offering a new app that automatically counts students as they board and exit their school bus. In addition to helping bus drivers make sure all students are accounted for, the app also eliminates the need for paperwork to track students with special needs.

The app can also be integrated with Zonar’s Z Pass system. Z Pass uses RFID cards to track students and notify parents if their child fails to board their bus, or departs at the wrong stop. Parents and school administrators can also log into a secure online portal that allows them to monitor travel activity in real time. According to Zonar’s own estimates, roughly one third of the nation’s school buses are using its RFID technology to track students.

By offering both parents and administrators an extra measure of peace of mind, Zonar’s ridership tracking system is being embraced by school districts throughout the nation. Ultimately, this type of tracking system could become a standard feature on school buses in the future.

Looking for a great school bus to round out your fleet? You can find a variety of competitively-priced used options right here at Northwest bus sales. Browse our inventory online, or give us a call today to speak with a representative.

King County Bus Routes Will Soon Have One Standardized Fare

King County Bus Routes Will Soon Have One Standardized Fare

Are you a regular bus rider in King County? If so, you’ve probably have noticed that calculating your fare can be a little confusing sometimes. Currently, bus fares in and around Seattle vary depending on when you catch a bus and where you’re it, which can make it difficult to calculate your fare on the fly.

But according to The Seattle Times, King County Metro Transit is preparing to make things a whole lot easier in July 2018 by switching to a single all-day, all-zone fare of $2.75. It will be a welcomed change for many riders—four out of five people told the King County Metro Transit that they would prefer a single basic fare in a recent poll—and it will also benefit the agency. King County estimates the change will bring in an additional $2 million in extra revenue every year.

About 65 percent of people who currently ride the bus in King County will either see no change to their total fare, or a 50-cent savings when the change takes effect next summer. People who ride the bus during midday and late-night hours will see a 25-cent increase. That might leave some riders unhappy, but in the long run it should make it much easier to navigate King County by bus.

In addition to reducing confusion, the flat bus fare should improve bus service and help it to run more smoothly. It’s also expected to improve relations between customers and bus drivers. In the end, this change could prove to be a simple solution to a complex issue with a variety of benefits for both riders and bus drivers.

Proterra CEO Makes Bold Prediction About Electric Buses

Proterra CEO Makes Bold Prediction About Electric Buses

Since the company was founded 13 years ago in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, Proterra has become the most well-known electric bus manufacturer in North America—and possibly the world. Proterra’s fast-charging technology, which allows its buses to be recharged in as little as 10 minutes, has prompted many former skeptics to rethink the potential of electric bus transit.

Now, Proterra CEO Ryan Popple has made a remarkable prediction that highlights his optimism about the future of electric bus development: By 2020, one-third of all new transit buses will be electric. Furthermore, Popple expects electric buses to account for half of all fleet purchase by 2025, and that by 2030 every new transit bus will be electric.

Coming from anyone else, this prediction might seem a little suspect. But Popple, who has also served as the CEO of Tesla Motors, knows more about the electric vehicle market than just about anyone else in the world. Plus, he’s got the statistics to back up his claim.

Proterra’s electric buses have a low price point that’s already made them fierce contenders against diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) options. Lithium-ion battery prices are also expected to decline dramatically in the next five years, which could make electric buses even more affordable and appealing to transit companies. In this industry, a low price point can have a huge influence on the purchasing decisions of fleet operators.

If Popple’s predictions are correct, electric buses could soon become the new norm in major cities across the US. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Now Might Be a Great Time to Become a School Bus Driver

School bus companies all over the country are currently scrambling to make up for a driver shortage

Looking for a new driving gig? School bus companies all over the country are currently scrambling to make up for a driver shortage that has forced schools in some areas to delay class schedules and suspend bus routes. These bus companies are in immediate need of new drivers, and many of them are offering special incentives and referral bonuses in an attempt to attract qualified hires.

According to a recent survey in School Bus Fleet Magazine, twenty-two percent of the nation’s 50 largest school bus operators called the shortage “severe,” while 5 percent said they were “desperate” for new drivers. All of the companies surveyed said they were facing a shortage to some degree. With the new school year starting up, the shortage is already causing some serious headaches for parents, teachers and administrators.

In Muncie, Indiana, for example, schools closed for two consecutive days while the district worked to overcome transportation issues caused by the driver shortage. Meanwhile in Hawaii, the state has been consolidating and even suspending some bus routes in Maui until the driver shortage is resolved.

Now, bus companies are working overtime to recruit new talent and fill vacant driver positions. In places where the driver shortage has been particularly disruptive, these companies are also offering increased pay and benefits to new drivers. For drivers that already have their CDL, this is a great opportunity to make some extra money during the school year.

Stay tuned for more updates from your source for great new and used buses at competitive prices – Northwest Bus Sales.

Amazon Launches Dedicated Bus Service in Seattle

Amazon Launches Dedicated Bus Service in Seattle

The news that Amazon has launched a dedicated bus service may not be as exciting as rumors that they are testing drones for same-day delivery, but it’s certainly big news for commuters who work for the enormous company in Seattle.

 

Recently, Amazon began offering private shuttles to its employees that are scheduled to run six times in the morning and six times in the evening, with a bus arriving to pick up employees about every twenty minutes. The program is called “Amazon Ride,” and it will shuttle up to 26,000 passengers from Redmond, Issaquah and Bellevue to Amazon’s two Seattle locations – the offices at South Lake Union Campus as well as the company headquarters, located in downtown Seattle.

The creation of this shuttle service is perhaps a reaction to the fact that Seattle was named the fourth most congested city in the United States by TomTom Traffic Index. Amazon could also be signaling an attempt to keep up with similar perks offered by major tech companies like Microsoft, which also offers an employee shuttle service.

Amazon released a statement, saying, “Our employees tell us that they love being in the heart of the city. In fact, more than 50% of our employees get to work without a car. We are continually looking for ways to build a more sustainable urban campus and this pilot is another opportunity to do so.”

Riders will have to reserve their spot on the bus ahead of time, though there’s a program for guaranteeing a ride home in the event that you have an emergency or need to work late. Good news for traffic in Seattle, and great news if you’re an Amazon employee—we’re curious to see how this endeavor will factor into the city’s public transportation sector as well.

For more information, or to check out any of the buses on our lot, contact us today at 1-800-231-7099.

Subway Shutdown in NYC Could Make Way for Bus Rapid Transit

Subway Shutdown in NYC Could Make Way for Bus Rapid Transit

It’s still a few years off, but many people in New York City are already preparing for the impending shut down of the L train. The L is one of many lines of the subway that carries people from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and vice versa, often during the peak of rush hour. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) plans to shut down the only tunnel that carries the L train underneath the East River in January of 2019 for a year or more to repair serious damage that was caused by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012.

During the hurricane, more than 7 million gallons of floodwater rushed into the L train’s tunnel, and according to the city’s officials, repairs are not optional. The city determined that a full shutdown for a short period of time was preferable to a partial shutdown for a longer period of time. Commuters and residents, however, may or may not agree.

While the repairs do indeed need to be made to the tunnel, the L train closure raises some serious public transportation issues for the 300,000 people in Brooklyn and the surrounding areas that use it daily. If they relied on the subway to get them where they needed to go before, what are they supposed to do when it shuts down?

The plan is to implement new bus rapid transit routes.

According to Wired, the city plans to increase bus availability to the residents of Brooklyn by adding new devoted bus lanes, putting more buses on the road, and figuring out a way to clear the cars and business delivery traffic out of the way to make room for the new bus traffic. If the city, residents, MTA, and bus drivers can all cooperate, this closure can be a success story, but for a city that relies heavily on underground transportation, the transition to buses may need a little bit of encouragement, perhaps from a city like Grand Rapids, MI.

Voters Across the Country Vote in Favor of Public Transit

Voters Across the Country Vote in Favor of Public Transit

On November 8, millions of American citizens headed to the polls to vote for their preferred presidential and congressional candidates. But political offices weren’t the only things at stake in this election. In many states, voters also voted on a wide variety of ballot measures that covered everything from marijuana legalization to minimum wage increases. There were also a record number of ballot proposals that allotted funds for infrastructure improvements to public transportation systems—48 ballot measure in total. Altogether, these public transit ballot proposals were worth about $200 billion.

When all the votes were counted, 33 of those 48 ballot measures were approved.

The American Public Transportation Association is healing these results as a big win in a country whose mass transit infrastructure has been in desperate need of improvement for decades. With billions of dollars now set aside for public transit expansions and improvements, American cities will finally be able to make long-overdue upgrades to their transit systems.

In Seattle, for example, the Sound Transit 3 proposition will spend roughly $54 billion over 25 years to expand the city’s bus and train routes. In Los Angeles, a similar ballot measure is expected to raise $120 billion for light rail extensions and bus service improvements over the next four decades. LA’s ballot measure will also set aside funds to make the city more accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians. In Atlanta, $2.5 billion will be set aside to improve the city’s light rail system. You can find the complete list of public transit ballot measures here.

It will be exciting to see how this huge influx of money will change America’s public transit systems in the coming years. At Northwest Bus sales, we’ll be here to provide municipal transit authorities and private companies with the vehicles they need to update and expand their fleets. Give us a call today to learn more.

Houston Overhauls Transit Service, Increases Ridership

Houston Overhauls Transit Service, Increases Ridership

Each city has its own unique public transit system, and no system is perfect. In New York, the Subway carries commuters and residents from place to place on a regular schedule though a delay-prone system of underground and above-ground trains. Meanwhile in Boston, the T uses mainly above-ground tramcars to take people from place to place. In other cities, however, people rely primarily on bus service for their transit needs.

In Houston, for example, the bus system is becoming more and more user friendly thanks to a recent major overhaul. Last August, the bus system’s outdated service map was upgraded to a newer grid-like system, with more buses running, more station locations and more frequent service. Unfortunately, many commuters were forced to transition from a one-bus commute to routes with additional transfers.

After hearing some negative reviews from customers whose routes were heavily affected by this revised service plan, Houston’s Metro system has made a few further changes and hopes that these new tweaks will placate passengers who were put off by last year’s overhaul. By implementing a more fluid grid system for bus transportation while also incorporating customer feedback, Houston expects to increase ridership on their bus system significantly.

According to some research done by Houston’s Metro service, Saturday and Sunday bus ridership spiked this summer, which showed that more people were using the bus system during their leisure time. Transit officials hope to see a similar increase in commuter percentages over the next several months as well. Ideally, they’d like to see a 20 percent increase in total ridership over the next two years. Based on their progress so far, Houston’s bus service is well on its way to achieving this goal.

Stay tuned for more updates from your premier source for competitively priced new and used buses – Northwest Bus Sales.

Feds Set Ambitious Emissions Goals for Trucks and Buses

Feds Set Ambitious Emissions Goals for Trucks and Buses

There will be some changes to the truck and bus models you see driving down the country’s highways come 2021. According to a press release from Environment News Service, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have made some decisions on emissions caps for medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses for the 2021 through 2027 model years.

The goal of these two agencies partnering up is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to encourage “manufacturing innovation”.

Environment News Service reports that the potential benefits of the stringent emissions program outweigh the cost of the changes at an 8 to 1 ratio. While trucking companies will surely need to spend some money on development, they should also plan to be able to save money on fuel—approximately $170 billion across the country.

The EPA hopes that the new laws will encourage trucking companies and transit services to adopt vehicles that use cleaner alternative fuels, so that future generations don’t have to figure out how to fix the fossil fuel problem.

“Today’s ambitious but achievable announcement is a huge win for the American people, giving us cleaner air, more money saved at the pump, and real benefits for consumers across the supply chain,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in the press release.

Model years 2014 and 2015 were covered under a similar, but somewhat less ambitious emissions goal plan, which is expected to save the country about $50 billion in fuel costs. And according to ENS, truck sales were up in 2014 and 2015, which means that the trucking industry will undoubtedly be able to keep up with the government’s demands, and produce cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles that have a lesser impact on the environment.

We’ll have to stay tuned and keep an eye on model year 2021 to see what they come up with! In the meantime, you can find a variety of great new and used options right here at Northwest Bus Sales.

Helsinki is the Latest City to Test Self-Driving Buses

Helsinki is the Latest City to Test Self-Driving Buses

Back in July, a curious little bus named Olli made its debut appearance in Washington, D.C. Aside from its distinctive appearance, what sets Olli apart from other buses in D.C. is that it’s able to drive itself. The bus is able to respond to hails from an Uber-like app, and recognize requests from passengers to take them to different locations in the area.

Now, a similar bus is about to hit the streets of the Finnish city of Helsinki as well. They’re called EasyMile minibuses, and this will be the first time they’ll share the road with ordinary traffic in Finland. Prior to their introduction in Helsinki, the buses were tested on a number of public roads in more remote regions.

Finland is somewhat unique in that the country has no law that explicitly requires vehicles to have drivers. Chances are, this was just an oversight from the days before autonomous vehicles became a practical reality. Now, however, this legal oddity has made Finland an ideal testbed for self-driving cars and buses.

Because the EasyMile buses are small and not especially fast, they will likely be used to ferry passengers short distances around the city, rather than following regular commuter routes. They could be perfect for getting people to and from an airport or train station, for example. The testing is expected to start shortly, and run for a total of about two months. If all goes well, Helsinki may adopt more of the buses in the future as well.

Stay tuned for more updates from your premier source for new and uses buses, all sold at competitive prices – Northwest Bus Sales.