Playing an essential role in the day to day lives of an entire state, the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) operates Metro Area Express (MAX) – the public transportation leader in Central Alabama. Averaging approximately 3 million riders each year, MAX’s new Birmingham intermodal terminal is heavily relied on for both state locals and visitors requiring access to buses and trains. With a goal to improve, impact and ignite public transportation, the BJCTA vision is to encourage the use of public transportation while contributing to the economic vitality of the community and protecting the environment through MAX transit.
When first unveiled in 2017, The Birmingham Intermodal Terminal was recognised as one of the most modern public transit facilities in the United States of America. With its modern looks however, came some modern limitations. Space. To be located in the downtown core, the Birmingham Intermodal terminal had to be designed in a compact way to maximize land efficiency as well as reduce both construction and environmental impact. Furthermore, today’s transit riders have come to expect nothing less than real-time departures and arrivals information. With airport technology and apps like Google Maps paving the way, detailed real-time passenger information for buses and trains need to be pervasive and easy to access.
To achieve their goals, BJCTA teamed up with Message Point and OnSign TV along with PPDS. To solve the problem of limited space, dynamic bus bays were introduced at the intermodal terminal. With fewer bays serving more buses, Message Point deployed TransitPointTM, a realtime passenger information solution powered by the OnSign TV Cloud Signage Platform, to deploy an integrated solution with over 47 screens throughout the facility, each customized to show information specific to its location. Screens provide real-time information for MAX, Greyhound, Amtrak, Megabus, and Zyp Bikeshare services. However, the real innovation, along with the design challenge, is in the Dynamic Bay System. Rather than waiting on a pre-assigned bay, incoming drivers may select the first available vacant bay when arriving.
This improves average daily bay utilization by over 40%, allowing more routes to be served by an efficient and compact facility. It also created unique signage challenges to make sure passengers get to the right bay on-time.
When drivers arrive, they enter their route number into screens fitted at the end of each bay which also provide visual feedback to passengers which bus route is currently in each bay. This information is collected by OnSign TV and sent back to the TransitPointTM platform; where it triggers visual alerts on screens throughout the facility, including the correct bay number for the departure. In addition to these visual alerts, Message Point leveraged OnSign’s platform to dynamically assemble overhead audio announcements using a real human voice guiding passengers who can’t see a screen or are visually impaired to the right bus faster. For future transfer stations, TransitPoint can even make these audible announcements leveraging the powerful onboard Android controller on the Phillips Intelligent displays.
Dynamic bus bays: Reduced impact on the downtown core and improved efficiency through a compact terminal design accommodating more buses by using a dynamic vacant bay system.
Signage Platform: Message Point selected OnSign TV to power TransitPointTM because it offers one of the most powerful professional signage platforms while enabling them to develop their own entirely new signage apps to extend the platform. OnSign TV has also worked together with the Philips team to allow Message Point full remote control, support and management for their Android powered signage screens.
Positive impact: The daily commute has been improved with better efficiency for passengers and easier control for operators.
Remote central updates: BJCTA can supplement real-time information on bus arrivals and departures with additional dynamic service alerts and passenger information.
Remote upgrades: OnSign TV allows the core signage app as well as Message Point’s custom apps to be mass updated remotely. This reduces onsite time required, maximizes uptime, and ensures each display is running smoothly with the latest features and stability requirements.
Airport-grade information: Outdated static information has been replaced with a wealth of location specific live information for bus and train arrivals and departures.
Android: Custom content, information layouts and insights are all operated through the Android integration system. Phillips’ robust customized Android environment provides the 24x7x365 always on reliability Message Point and BJCTA demand.
Future-proof: Evolving requirements from BJCTA can be easily be accommodated by Message Point using OnSign TV and the Phillips Intelligent displays, enabling them to expand the system as needed. Such as replacing the driver’s manual arrival entry with automatic Bluetooth Beacon based arrival signalling by year end.
Enhanced Accessibility: Designed from the ground up to meet or exceed all requirements of the Americans with Disability Act, the system enables more riders to leverage public transportation.
Optimised capital expenditure: A smaller terminal design equires less real estate, resulting in a lower cost of operation. The TransitPointTM and OnSign TV cloud service platforms are both provided as an annual managed service. This substantially reduced upfront costs and ensures BJCTA always receives the latest features, and all the support they need to keep the system at the leading edge for years to come.