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Hendon Publishing

CDW-G improves efficiency, communications for buses

CDW Government Inc. (CDW-G), a wholly owned subsidiary of CDW Corp. and leading source of information technology (IT) solutions to governments and educators, recently provided a Panasonic Toughbook solution to the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA), which serves the 152,000 residents of Portage County in northeastern Ohio. Using the Toughbooks in combination with intelligent transportation software from Trapeze Group enables PARTA to locate its fleet of 56 buses remotely and relay information directly to drivers, ultimately improving the quality of service to citizens using public transportation on a daily basis.

“With CDW-G’s expert advice and services, we were able to implement a ruggedized mobile computing solution from Panasonic to use in combination with software from Trapeze to enable real-time communication between drivers and dispatch,” said Bryan Smith, PARTA manager of business development. “The Toughbooks and Trapeze software ensure we can get location information on our buses anytime and anywhere and update a driver’s route instantly so we can pick up more passengers in a shorter period of time.”

PARTA ridership has increased dramatically over the past year, with about 1.3 million trips made in and around the county in 2006 on eight bus routes and via PARTA’s dial-a-ride service, which provides door-to-door transportation and “will call” pickups following doctor’s appointments. In addition, PARTA’s student-run service for Kent State University employs student drivers, dispatchers and managers.

To keep up with demand and ensure quality service to citizens, PARTA called on CDW-G for advice on a hardware solution that would assist with driver productivity and internal communications across the 500-square-mile bus system. PARTA needed a solution that not only would allow for near-instant communication between the drivers out on the roads and dispatch, but also help dial-a-ride drivers navigate in and around Portage County.

PARTA selected the Panasonic Toughbook 19, a fully ruggedized notebook PC that converts to a tablet PC. The Toughbook features an optimized display with an extra-low reflection rate so drivers can clearly view route information and messages from dispatch in all lighting. With the Toughbooks, drivers now hit “arrive” and “depart” buttons when out on the road, eliminating the need to manually log transit times, mileage and fares, while also providing the dispatch center with instant access to route and driver information. The Toughbooks also have an emergency communications feature, which allows bus drivers to send an emergency message to the PARTA dispatch simply by double tapping the Toughbook screen. The emergency function is a two-way street—dispatch can also relay critical information back to the drivers via text message.

Understanding the transportation authority’s specific needs, CDW-G also called on its partner LEDCO, a leading provider of rugged computer mounting systems to law enforcement, public safety and emergency fleets, for notebook mounts that would meet the authority’s safety and usability requirements. Given PARTA’s diverse bus fleet, composed of multiple makes and models, a one-size-fits-all mount would not fulfill the authority’s requirements. Working directly with PARTA on site, CDW-G and LEDCO were able to identify the optimal mounting solution for each bus that was not only user friendly, but more important, also met bus safety codes, ensuring that in an emergency drivers have a clear path to both the passengers and the exits.

Published in Public Safety IT, May/Jun 2008

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