All posts by Neil

National Have Fun at Work Day

National Fun at Work Day is an unofficial American holiday on January 28th, but we’re proposing that it be celebrated world wide!

Have Fun At Work Day

If you think your company is too busy to have fun, consider this:

Forbes magazine says, “Beyond salary, psychological and social fulfilment can determine which employees are motivated to stay, perform, and contribute to organization success.”

Paul Dolan, Phd, author of Happiness by Design says, “Studies suggest that if you’re not happy at work, you’re less productive, more likely to take days off sick and a poor problem solver.” (Source)

Having happy employees is not only better for them, it’s better for your bottom line.

Of course, creating a company culture that contributes to happy, engaged employees is a year round effort, but if you’re looking for a way to kick off the New Year with fun, try some of these tips for National Fun at Work Day.

  • Put small basketball hoops in the office or the break room over the trash. You can even get your riders involved in the fun, and you just might find that you end up cleaning up less trash at the end of the day.
  • Start a box of silly toys and trinkets, and keep adding to it throughout the year. A whoopie cushion, a toy sword, masks…  Don’t hog all the fun for your employees!  Consider how you can brighten your riders’ days too.
  • During the morning meeting, have the person speaking wear a funny hat. Anyone who wants a turn talking must wear the hat.
  • Do you already have an especially fun employee on your team? Create an award for the Funnest* Employee of the Year and give an award like an enormous beach ball.  Get the team revved up about who will win the award for 2016 and the types of ideas that will work within your business.

*Funnest isn’t a word, but it will drive the grammar police in your company crazy.

  • Give everyone a “page a day” calendar with jokes or funny quotes to brighten their whole year.
  • Start a new routine of doing stretches, deep breathing or a joke at the morning meetings.
  • Ask each employee for interesting trivia about themselves, create a puzzle with the information, and pass it out on Fun at Work Day. Give a prize to the employee who matches the most bits of trivia with the correct employees.
  • Take suggestions for names for each one of your transit vehicles. On Fun at Work Day, put up pictures of each one and the name suggestions.  Employees can vote by writing the number that correspondences to the name on a bite sized candy bar with a permanent marker.  The person who suggested the winning name gets to keep the candy.
  • Have a white elephant auction and potluck to celebrate FUN!
  • Fill the break room with balloons and beach balls.

These ideas were taken from or inspired by Workplace Fun Ideas by David Koutsoukis and 52 Ways to Have Fun at Work by Baudville.

And finally remember, that Have Fun at Work Day should be an attitude that lasts the whole year!

Have a great day.

Are you ready for New Years?

The New Year is coming right up, and along with the fun and festivities come some challenges like dealing with intoxicated or unruly passengers.  We want your transit company to have a safe New Year’s Eve, so we’ve compiled some ideas to help the night go smoothly.

Happy New Year from AddTransit

Review records of incidents in prior years to identify locations that were hot spots for trouble.  You can use this information to co-ordinate with authorities and see if extra patrols would be advisable, and to schedule your security services if you employ them.

 

Make sure your security cameras are in proper working order, so you can record any incidents if they do occur.  This is also a good time to test panic buttons.

 

Schedule a meeting with your operators this week for a review of safety procedures.  They should have training on how to recognize intoxication or drug use, how to defuse potentially volatile situations and how to handle unruly passengers.  Encourage your operators to be professional and firm in enforcing fares and rules, but not to the point of escalating conflict or risking personal harm.

 

The Transit Cooperative Research Program recommends courses in verbal judo, which can teach operators de-stressing techniques, how to “calm a hostile customer and diffuse a potentially violent situation.”  If you have provided your operators with self-defense training, this is a good time to brush up on those techniques.  If not, consider offering this instruction as soon as possible in the coming year.

 

Also, keep in mind that this is a difficult time of year for many people, and your operators may have just had a hard holiday season themselves.  It will be hard for them to smooth the ruffled feathers of passengers if they are dealing with stress or grief themselves.  Take some time to check in with each employee and see if there are any steps you can take to boost morale.

 

Combining Vehicle Positioning  that tracks the location of the transit vehicle at all times with Real Time Status Updates to notify your passengers of delays or route changes can be beneficial, will allow you to keep riders informed of changes or delays.

Have a great New Years and stay safe.

Tips for Driving Buses Safely in the Winter

Winter is here, and snow storms are hitting hard all across the Northern Hemisphere. Whether you own a shuttle bus company, or manage school buses or city buses, you know how important it is for your drivers to stay safe, and keep your precious cargo safe. We have some tips to help your bus drivers be careful on the icy roads.

Safe Driving Buses during Winter

Training is not just for new drivers. We could all use a reminder now and then about how to drive safely, and when we are in emergency situations, we tend to fall back on those skills we’ve practiced. Set up a training area where drivers can work with instructors and practice increasing their following distance, and techniques for braking on ice and using anti lock brakes (ABS) properly (steady, constant pressure).

Consider telling your bus drivers to take alternate routes, and make sure they know routes that avoid large hills or particularly icy areas, so they can make those decisions on the road if necessary.

Make a discussion of the day’s weather forecast part of your morning meeting, if you have one. If not, consider implementing this habit so everyone in your company starts out the day with the information they need to stay safe and be productive.

Give your bus drivers a pre-trip inspection checklist, and make sure you’re giving them permission to be on the clock early enough to get it done.

Pre-trip Inspection Checklist

  • Do the heaters work?
  • Are the wiper blades in good condition?
  • Is the widow washer solvent full?
  • Do I have a can of de-icing spray?
  • Are the headlights working and clear of snow?
  • Are all of the windows and mirrors clear of snow?

10 Tips for Driving Safely in Winter Weather

  1. Slow down.
  2. If you start to slide, don’t overcompensate or jerk the wheel. Use slow, steady movements.
  3. Apply steady, constant pressure to the brakes, especially if you start to slide.
  4. Don’t use cruise control.
  5. Use your low beam headlights at night or in the fog
  6. Wear sunglasses to reduce glare during the day.
  7. Increase your following distance.
  8. Use your air-conditioning or if not available, crack a window in the front and back of the bus to keep your wind shield from fogging up.
  9. Maintain a constant speed on hills. If hills are especially icy, consider taking an alternate route
  10. Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses, which may have ice before other parts of the road.

Finally, winter weather can cause buses to sometimes be late to their destinations. We can help you alert your riders about delays with Real Time Status Updates and inform them of route changes with Vehicle Positioning Software. They can receive these updates on their phones. Contact us today to find out how to provide this valuable service to your customers.

Christmas and the New Year are only a few weeks away!

Do you have your holiday schedules out yet?  Are your schedules online? And we don’t mean in a PDF file that your customers have to go digging through your website to find.  You want your customers to be able to easily find your schedule on Google Maps or on their travel planning app from their phone, and you need to be able to quickly update them if bad weather causes changes.

 

“We’ve had our schedule just on our website for years.  Why bother with online maps and travel apps?”

 

Transit riders expect you to be on time, every time, and they expect your route to be consistent.  But you know that sometimes changes must be made.  Your holiday schedule may have planned changes like coordinating around the Christmas parade, or sudden changes because of bad weather or a car accident blocking the road.  Your customers will understand these hiccups if they know in advance, but not if you leave them stranded in the snow.  Getting your schedules to your customers with a simple tap on an app, will allow them to plan ahead for changes.

Santa gets his Christmas Schedules Online

Also, if you customers can find your schedule on Google, they won’t need to call your office to ask about the schedule or to complain that they can’t find it on your website.  This means less money spent on employees to answer customer calls, and most importantly, you’ll have happier customers who will want to use your service over and over.

 

“But we’re a small company and we can’t afford to hire an IT team to make that happen!”

 

You CAN afford to make it happen, and you don’t need to hire an IT team.  AddTransit can put your schedules and routes in GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) which enables Google, Yahoo, and App Providers to easily include your data in their maps and travel planning programs.  You can be competitive with the major transit companies for a fraction of the cost.

 

Contact us now to get your schedule on travel planning apps before Christmas!

Online Vehicle Tracking Software (Real Time)

AddTransit’s online vehicle tracking software gives you cheap vehicle tracking in real time.  Combining the power of GPS equipped smartphones, the Internet and custom built cloud based software results in cheap vehicle tracking for your bus, transit or transport tourism business.

Online Vehicle Tracking

Using our apps or mobile Internet pages your drivers can login and choose their route and vehicle.  The GPS enabled smartphones then provide the position of the vehicle as they travel along the route.

The vehicles location can be viewed on AddTransit’s online vehicle tracking web pages in real time.  We can also use the GTFS (General Transit File Specification) real time format to provide the vehicle positions to App providers and Google Maps.

It’s quick to set-up, easy to use and good value.

Have a great day!

Google Maps – Bus Directions, Bus Routes and Bus Schedules

One of the great things about the advent of Google Maps is the ability to get not only only driving directions but also public transport directions.

Google Maps - Bus Directions, Routes &Schedules

Google uses GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) files from the bus companies to display bus routes, bus schedules and calculate bus directions.

A passenger just needs to enter their start location and their final destination into Google Maps and choose the public transport icon.  Google then shows the passenger the public transport options.  The bus route is shown on a map and alternate travel routes (if available).  Further drill down options exist to allow the passenger to see the schedule,  alternate trip times, basic fare information and transfer details.

The ubiquitous 24×7 nature of Google maps bus directions, means that wherever there is access to the Internet (e.g. PC, tablet or smartphone, etc.) a passenger can plan their journey.  No more out of date paper time tables and complex journey planning!

Additionally, if your journey destination changes midway you can recalculate an alternate route in moments and get there faster.

Have a great day!

GTFS Editor, GTFS Validation Tool and GTFS Viewer

There’s a number of challenges with the GTFS format.  One is the complexity in it’s simplicity.

Let me explain…..

The GTFS format uses a relatively old way of storing data.  The method is CSV.   Here’s what Wikipedia says:

A comma-separated values (CSV) file stores tabular data (numbers and text) in plain text. Each line of the file is a data record. Each record consists of one or more fields, separated by commas. The use of the comma as a field separator is the source of the name for this file format.  Comma-separated values is a data format that pre-dates personal computers by more than a decade: the IBM Fortran (level G) compiler under OS/360 supported them in 1967.

There’s a CSV file for each type of data (e.g. trips, routes, schedules, etc.) and these files are all zipped (a type of compression) to create a GTFS file.

The simplicity means that a GTFS file could be created with the use of the most basic editor and a program such as Winzip.

However the complexity comes, when you realise that each of the files have to reference each other.  MS Excel tools (GTFS xls tool) have been coded but they are limited in their functionality and lack in inherent strength that GTFS brings with online maps.

GTFS Validation, GTFS Editor and GTFS Tool. Get schedules on Maps

That’s why we created AddTransit.  Our software includes a GTFS builder, GTFS validation tool and a GTFS editor with maps to view the locations and routes.  Our software removes the need for you to worry about files, zipping and cross referencing between files.  We provide warnings if there is gaps with the aim of making your job easier.

This allows you to focus on your schedules and routes, and let’s you leave the intricacies of GTFS to us.  Here’s the AddTransit GTFS Tools signup link if you want to Get Started.

Have a great day.

 

Cheap GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification)

For many companies creating and maintaining a GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) feed can be seen as a costly exercise.  Existing processes are focussed on paper based schedules, booklets and posters and more recently on bespoke solutions for the companies website in text, PDF, graphical or even interactive formats.

The provision of a GTFS feed is seen as a new expense and it could be associated with expensive software solutions and consultants.

But, that doesn’t need to be the case.

A GTFS solution actually allows you to reduce effort and whilst getting greater coverage of potential customers.  Google’s, Apple’s and Yahoo’s maps software is now in daily use and most passengers are moving to smartphones which have a growing number of transit apps.  All these services can provide your schedules from your GTFS file.  Additionally you can include standard code on your websites that will provide interactive schedules and maps, that also use your GTFS file.

As your schedule becomes available in many more ways using the same GTFS file and common software, your paper based schedules can be reduced and your schedule software development costs reduced.

At AddTransit, we recognised the need for cheap GTFS so we make it easy to create, distribute and maintain the file.  Our focus is on providing value for money regardless of whether you are a single shuttle bus, a fleet of ferries or a large public transport system.

We want to make your GTFS experience great (and cheap), so contact us today to find out more.

Have a great day.

AddTransit’s Online Ticket Reservation System

AddTransit’s online ticket reservation system is focussed on the  public transport, transit and travel based tourism industries.  The web based ticket reservation software provides a 24 x 7 customer sales channel allowing you to serve your passengers whenever and wherever it best suits them.

Online Ticket Reservation System

So how does it work? Let’s use the example of a bus company, but it could easily be a ferry, plane, train or travel tourism/sightseeing provider.

Online ticket reservation system set up

Firstly, the bus company adds their routes and schedule.  Then the company adds their fares.  Finally the company adds any restrictions such as vehicle capacity and preferred number of tickets for online versus offline sales.

Then the company chooses how they’d like to receive fare payments and their preferred frequency of payment.  Of course, terms & conditions, customer service contact details, and exceptions/alterations handling can be entered too!

AddTransit automatically generates a small snippet of code to include in the companies website and the company is ready to start making sales.  Tickets can be sold from the bus company’s website, through the AddTransit apps or you can even upgrade to a branded ticketing app.

Book Reservations and buy Tickets online

Customers can then make reservations and purchase tickets online.  A ticket is emailed to the purchaser with the option to print the ticket, if the customer so chooses.  The ticket includes a bar code to make it easily scannable by the AddTransit ticket management app.

The cost of the AddTransit service is borne by the customer through an additional service fee at time of purchase.

Reporting is available on the website.  Passenger manifests are also available within the AddTransit ticket management app.  Customers can also manage their tickets and update selected details online.

If you’d like to know more our online ticket reservation system, please contact us today.

Google Maps Bus Routes

Getting your bus route to appear on Google Maps is easy with AddTransit.  Our easy to use GTFS builder allows you to create and edit a GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) file.  A GTFS file contains the necessary information to inform Google of your stops, schedule, routes and fares.

Google Maps Bus Routes

You then notify Google that you now have a GTFS file for them to use, and subject to you meeting Google’s criteria, the file successfully passing Google’s validation and verifying that you will maintain the file going forward, Google will give you access to their Transit Dashboard.

Google also automatically uploads changes on a regular basis to ensure that their online schedules stay up to date.

Once the Google has processed your file, your customers/passengers will be able to view your bus schedules on the web in Google maps.

And the best thing is, is that the GTFS file is used not only by Google but also by lots of other companies.  This means that by creating one file you suddenly are able to make your schedule available in many different ways to your customers.

Have a good day.