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New Technology Improves Ride For St. Joseph Transit

Buses equipped with GPS systems and better communications with headquarters are just a few of the new features helping St. Joseph Transit provide better service.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) On a cold November night, it's good to know exactly when the bus will be there. New technology on the buses guarantees that.

"They keep us on schedule if we're ahead, we go through them if we're behind," said Mark Cantua, a bus driver for St. Joseph Transit for the past year. "They're there to keep us on schedule so that if a person is walking out of their house and we're picking them up, they'll know exactly when we'll be there."

The devices are part of a technology upgrade for St. Joseph Transit that's been in the works for five years. The units also allow communication between the buses and headquarters and help bus drivers find a specific address.

"Much like your Garmin or your Google Maps or whatever, the buses have the ability to look at a map on a screen on the buses themselves," said Mary Gaston, General Manager of St. Joseph Transit.

Getting to locations off the normal route is part of the job for bus drivers.

"Our service is designed so that the buses can go off the route to deviate to pick people up at their homes," Cantua said. "Sometimes they need to look at a map to see where that is."

In addition to telling a driver when and where to pick up a passenger, the new technology also provides other needed information.

"It'll show you if it's a person that can walk or whether it's a person in a wheelchair. That helps us to prepare our bus for that ride."

These are all good features for some riders who are entirely dependent on the bus.

"It's very important, because without it, it'd be hard to get around," said passenger Betty Jeffers.

For some, it's a matter of dollars and cents.

"They're retired, or they're on SSI or on fixed income," Cantua said. "This is the most economical way to travel in this town."

The on-board GPS system will trigger audio announcements in the buses when it approaches key bus stops.

Riders can now schedule special pick-ups off normal routes online during off-office hours.

They can even get automated reminder calls the night before they've scheduled a special pick-up.

The $850,000 needed to complete the project came from a federal grant.

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