Liu slams MTA over failure of GPS bus tracking project

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Two transit officials have acknowledged before a City Council public hearing that in the nearly 20 years since the MTA began trying to establish a computerized system to keep track of buses, little has been accomplished.

“This is a spectacular display of incompeten­ce,” said City Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing).

Robert Walsh and Sassan Davoodi of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who are responsible for the MTA’s Automatic Vehicle Locator program, testified before the Council Transportation Committee Jan. 30.

The project is supposed to collect information on where buses are at a given times and send the data along with when it will arrive to a lighted board at a bus stop.

Walsh and Davoodi traced the off−and−on attempts to provide information on where a bus is on its route and when it will arrive, but said several companies hired for the job had failed.

“But what about right now? Liu asked. “What is your plan to go forward on this important project?

Both officials said they shared the frustration over the lack of progress, but had no further plan.

“We have at present nothing to offer,” Walsh said.

Davoodi said the city was particularly difficult in part because of what he called urban canyons between skyscrapers.

“Can you tell me how many urban canyons you would encounter in Queens or the Bronx or Brooklyn or Staten Island?” Liu asked.

Liu mentioned a number of cities that already have vehicle locator systems and told the MTA officials they should check with a city agency that already uses such a system.

“The good news for the MTA is that the city has already implemented a $500 million AVL system which can accommodate the MTA buses,” Liu said it was operated by the city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and could be tapped by the MTA for its stalled bus project.

“This is totally unacceptab­le,” Liu said. “The MTA must get on board now.”

Walsh and Davoodi said they could not go into detail about the most recent attempt to establish a vehicle locator system because the city and the company are in court over the city’s attempt to get back money spent on the project.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

Updated 6:34 pm, October 10, 2011
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