By Heidi Simmons
Tired of driving in traffic, wish you had time to read an ebook on your commute? Then why not climb aboard a SunLine bus and enjoy a stress-free wireless ride!
“Wi-Fi will allow our riders to accomplish many things while getting to their destinations in the valley,” said Lauren Skiver, CEO and General Manager, SunLine Transit Agency. “We recognize that everyone is busy and providing easy access to Wi-Fi is one way our riders can keep up.”
From Desert Hot Springs to Mecca, and every CV city in-between, all SunLine buses are now equipped with Wi-Fi allowing SunLine riders free wireless access!
“Being able to take care of business while relaxing and riding the bus is a big enhancement for our riders and our transit service,” said Skiver. “Wi-Fi enables our riders to work, complete school assignments, stream a movie and surf the web while moving from one cool place to another within the Coachella Valley.”
To utilize the service, riders must have a “smart” device such as a mobile phone or laptop computer that can connect to the Internet or communicate wirelessly. Riders no longer have to use their personal network and data plans when riding the bus. Data gigabytes add up quickly and overages can be costly.
Riders are able to “disconnect to reconnect” as they change buses or when they arrive at the destination.
Each SunLine bus is outfitted with a wireless router, which supports the Wi-Fi connection. The system also allows for more SunLine safety features. The Wi-Fi provides live streaming video of the inside of every bus. This enables SunLine personnel or law enforcement real-time viewing in case of an emergency.
Free Wi-Fi is yet another significant rider amenity added by SunLine. In January, the transit agency launched “SunBus Tracker,” a free mobile application. The App offers the most technologically advanced tools available to help riders navigate the bus system more efficiently right at his or her fingertips.
The App provides: real-time information, next bus and bus stop information, alerts on delayed busses or detours, how many passengers are onboard a bus, trip planning and more.
The SunBus Tracker App uses Global Positioning System — GPS — based technology and has been well received by SunLine riders. The SunBus Tracker can be downloaded from SunLine’s website or by searching “MyStop” in the App Store on a rider’s mobile device.
“In our desert climate, having an App that allows a rider to determine when to get to their bus stop is a huge convenience,” said Skiver. “Riders can log-on to the App and see exactly where their bus is, and when it will reach the desired stop destination. It’s great to have the entire system on your phone versus figuring out connections and boarding times using a printed schedule book.”
SunLine riders using real-time services have experienced shorter wait times and greater trip satisfaction.
Skiver believes transit providers must move with technology and the needs of riders. “Our service with clean air vehicles and our pioneering Hydrogen Fuel Cell program makes SunLine ‘Today’s Transit for Tomorrow’s World’. Our younger generations value transportation options that are centered around protecting the environment and SunLine is way ahead in that arena.”
Besides including new rider-friendly technologies, SunLine Transit Agency is a leader in the nation for zero emission buses and fuel technology, and has paved the way for other transit agencies across the country to move to cleaner, more environmentally sound technology. The SunLine fleet currently includes 66 Compressed Natural Gas buses, five Hydrogen Fuel Cell buses and three All Electric buses.
“We are looking to receive 14 more Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles in the next two years, and will be adding one more All Electric bus for a total of four,” said Skiver. “SunLine is also in the process of creating a ‘Center of Excellence’ here in the Coachella Valley to train individuals interested in working in the zero emission technology field and we hope to have it operating in the near future.”
The SunLine Transit Agency is a joint powers authority that was formed in 1977 to operate the Coachella Valley’s public transportation system. Its vehicles travel more than 2.8 million miles per year, covering over 500 bus stops located throughout a 1,120 mile-service area carrying approximately 4.5 million riders.
Skiver wants people to know that riding the bus is easy. “It’s convenient, and the most affordable way to get around. We have professional operators, maintenance technicians, and staff that work hard to make sure we provide excellent services and stay in tune with our riders.”
Recognizing the valley’s transportation needs, SunLine added a commuter bus to Riverside where stops include the University of California, Riverside and the Riverside MetroLink Station among several others. The commuter route was the first bus with free Wi-Fi.
SunLine also responded to the needs of Desert Hot Spring residents who required a better bus route to access College of the Desert in a more direct manner.
Skiver is always looking for ways to increase the frequency on each line to reduce customer wait times and improve connections. She would like to see all the lines running 30 minutes or less at a bus stop.
To further enhance the ease of the riding experience, SunLine is working on the implementation of an electronic or cashless form of fare-payment.
“Our number one goal is to put ‘rubber on the road’ and transport our communities in a safe and timely manner,” said Skiver. “SunLine is focused on serving our riders and the Coachella Valley. Amenities like Wi-Fi are a part of our continued efforts to listen to our customers and move rapidly on projects that deliver these types of improved conveniences and services.”
Skiver is proud that SunLine can provide the App and wireless service at no additional cost to their customers. “The beautiful thing is you can still get around town for only one buck each way!” said Skiver.