The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) recently found a way to keep their buses on schedule—for daily routes and maintenance.

Derrick Blount, superintendent of the authority’s Intelligent Transportation Services (ITS), had 60 Ritron callboxes installed in the yards where buses are parked and maintained. The callboxes allow direct, real-time communication between driver and maintenance personnel, thus streamlining the morning and afternoon “pullout.” The units have helped improve on-time rates, according to the manufacturer.

METRO owns 1,262 buses, spread over seven lots. This means a lot of maintenance spread over a lot of acreage.

Before starting their routes, drivers perform a routine maintenance check. Any issue must be reported to maintenance personnel. With no direct means of contact, drivers would call the dispatcher, and the information would begin filtering through the chain of command. This became a lengthy process. Often, drivers would simply hike through the lot searching for maintenance personnel, causing unacceptable service delays and increasing driver frustration.

As a test, METRO purchased one callbox, in February 2014. They programmed it to their UHF radio frequencies and installed it in the largest garage. This helped to verify range and coverage through buildings and around the grounds. The system was fully implemented in early 2015.  

“We found the UHF range sufficient, and we were able to install it easily — we just installed batteries and programmed it to match our system,” Blount explains.

A total of 62 callboxes were purchased, which are used every day, most frequently between 4:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., and 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. — the rush hours for the garages. The total cost to METRO was $40,000, but the return on investment in terms of operation efficiency is harder to quantify.

“You could calculate the man-hours saved during the search, response, and repair of buses over some defined period of time. You can’t put a price on bus operator morale,” says Blount.

With easy access to direct, instant communication, the process is more efficient and streamlined. METRO is now able to better stick to its bus pullout schedule — to run on time and safely.
Click here to learn more about Ritron.


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