Bus riders waiting to catch a bus in downtown Columbia may soon be able to get transit information in real time by checking two new digital message boards planned for the transit system’s Sumter Street station.
The upgrades are part of a small package of improvements, funded by federal stimulus dollars, that the bus system will finish making to its downtown transit center beginning around mid-October, bus officials say.
The money for the upgrades came from a one-time, $120,000 Federal Transit Administration grant specifically earmarked for upgrades to transit centers, said Bob Schneider, executive director for the Central Midlands Regional Transportation Authority.
“This grant has to be used for the transit center,” Schneider said.
The work, Schneider said, will complete transit center upgrades the bus authority started about a year and half ago using stimulus funding.
Federal law requires transit authorities to use 1 percent of their budgets for safety and security and 1 percent for enhancements such as signs or transit center improvements, Schneider said.
Roughly half, or about $65,000, of the grant will be used to install two TV-sized digital boards – one inside and one outside of the center. The boards will communicate with onboard GPS systems already installed on the city’s fleet of buses and relay such information as delays and arrival and departure times to riders.
“Now, our customers will know if their bus is four minutes away,” Schneider said.
The other half of the money will be used to install security cameras around the transit center and awnings to the outside of the building. The awnings will provide riders with much-needed shelter from the elements, Schneider said.