As part of the transition to the Bus Contracting Model (BCM), formerly known as the Government Contracting Model, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) required a Common Fleet Management System (CFMS) to provide a unified solution for operations control, fleet management, passenger information and business management for LTA. The solution would come in the Trapeze Common Fleet Management System (CFMS), which would cost the Government S$68 million to purchase and install across all buses on the roads.
The Common Fleet Management System comes in two parts: an Intelligent Bus Management System (IBMS), comprising computer systems installed within the bus depot, and the In-Vehicle System (IVS), comprising a touch-screen tablet mounted on every bus and associated location systems. The IVS system was progressively fitted to SBS Transit and SMRT Buses since 1 April 2016, and all buses on revenue service under BCM bus operators (Tower Transit) are equipped with such units. The eventual goal is to install these units on all buses by end-2017.
These terminals are usually installed on the left side of the drivers’ cab, near the turquoise-coloured Integrated Driver Fare Console. They are sleek, black tablets with a touchscreen and four coloured buttons on the right side, with a coloured tile interface resembling that of a Windows 8 start menu.
This article will attempt to delve into the specifics of the Trapeze CFMS and complement our earlier article, New Bus Announcement System and Driver Display Unit. In this article, IBMS and CFMS will be used interchangeably. A list of acronyms will also be provided at the bottom of the article.
- 9 April 2014: LTA awards contract to ST Electronics and Trapeze Group to supply, install and commission an Intelligent Bus Management System (IBMS)
- January 2015: Newly registered SBS Transit buses are put on service without the original Driver Display Unit (DDU).
- December 2015: New Driver Display Units first spotted on several new SMRT Buses.
- 1 April 2016: New Driver Display Units and Announcement Systems launched on SBS Transit Bus Services from Clementi Bus Interchange, including 96, 282, 284, 285. Eventually expanded to other bus services
- 29 May 2016: Start of Tower Transit operations and operational use of the Trapeze CFMS
- End 2017: Targeted installation of Trapeze CFMS on all buses
On 9 April 2014, a consortium between ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems) Pte Ltd (STE) and Trapeze Switzerland GMBH were awarded a contract to supply, install and commission an Intelligent Bus Management System (IBMS) with a total value of about S$68 million. LTA touts that the system will aid bus drivers with traffic information and advisories on adherence to route schedules within the transport network, ultimately meaning better-operated bus services for the benefit of commuters, who should experience a more consistent performance of bus services.
With an expected fleet size of 5,400 public buses in Singapore by 2017, the math crudely works out to around $12,500 per bus, an expense that LTA appears to be willing to foot, as it is crucial to support future BCM bus operations. Not only can bus operators use the new system for operations control and fleet management, LTA will also be tapping into the same data to access the performance of bus services, and a standardised system would work to the benefit of everyone. The actual cost of on-bus equipment would be lower, as this sum includes technical development costs and ‘back-end’ systems such as a new Intelligent Bus Management System (IBMS) for bus operators.
So, what is the current system in use?
Previously, SBS Transit and SMRT Buses operated as independent bus companies with their own fleet management systems. While SBS Transit has never publicly showcased its fleet management system, it has long relied on a Driver Display Unit (DDU) to provide some form of communications between their Bus Operations Control Centre (BOCC) and individual buses. On the other hand, SMRT does not use an additional unit for communications between BOCC and buses.
At the same time, BOCCs are able to track the relative positions of buses using the New Onboard Bus Equipment (NOBE), an Automated fare collection system which integrates the turquoise-coloured bus fare console, card validators and bus location system in one package. It is elements of this system that allow BOCCs to track bus movements while relying on their own software to interpret the data for operational use. SMRT had previously showcased their system at various bus carnivals across the island.
How will the new system look like?
The newest CFMS will include an onboard computer with a touch terminal (the sleek, black tablet) installed on all buses, which will aid bus drivers with traffic information and advisories on adherence to route schedules within the transport network. It will also enable two-way voice communication between BOCCs and bus drivers, while also able to broadcast messages from BOCCs to all drivers.
The Trapeze console
The Trapeze console can be identified by its unique and sleek black design and interface. These touchscreen units are supplied by ST Electronics and Trapeze Group, Switzerland. Here’s how things are laid out:
|Status Information & Route Adherence|
|① Time & Status||Top left box that displays the time in 24-hour format. Green background indicates all good. Alerts show up as round icons inside the box.|
|② Excess Wait Time
& Schedule adherence
|Top right box that displays schedule block number (SBS Transit, SMRT, Tower Transit, Go-Ahead use different formats)
– Vertical bar with numbers = Excess Wait Time (Deviation in minutes)
– Horizontal bar with numbers = Schedule adherence (Deviation in minutes)
|③ Distance to rear bus
& Rear bus loading level
|Only appears near bus stops
Displays distance to rear bus, in number of minutes. Icon within the white bus indicates loading level of rear bus
– Green man sitting = Seats available
– Green man standing = Standing space available
– Red man standing = Limited standing space available
– Grey question mark = Status unknown
Excess Wait Time & Schedule Adherence
Between SBS Transit, SMRT and Go-Ahead, all four companies use different block numbers as seen on the top right corner. The coloured bar represents if a bus service uses Excess Wait Time (EWT) or On-Time Adherence (OTA) as the indicator of service quality.
|Go-Ahead||(Service number) – (Block number)
where the Block number is an assigned three-digit reference number to every bus deployed on service, functioning differently from other operators.
001 – 1xx are used for Pasir Ris / Changi Airport / Changi Village route group services (Except Service 15), 301 – 3xx for Service 15, 501 – 6xx for Punggol route group services (Except Services 84, 381, 382G/W & 386), 801 – 8xx for Services 84, 381, 382G/W & 386. While running on special schedules, four-digit block numbers can be seen with an extra digit added to the front (Such as 36-1001).
e.g. 118-574, 118-615, etc.
|Tower Transit||(Service number) – (Service number)(Block number)
where the Block number is an assigned two-digit reference number to every timetable planned for the route (which a bus is subsequently assigned to). Split shift timetables will have higher larger block numbers.
e.g. 106-10624, 183-18317, 990-99004, etc.
|SBS Transit||(Service Number) – (East/West District) – (Bus designation)(Block number)
– East/West District: ‘se‘ or ‘sw‘ will be displayed depending if the bus belongs to an SBS Transit East District or SBS Transit West District depot as both are controlled by separate Operation Control Centres. (more info here)
– Bus designation: One-digit reference number indicating planned bus deployment:
Note that in the above image example (43-sw-809), the Bus designation is ‘8’ despite being a wheelchair-accessible Mercedes-Benz Citaro. That is because the Citaro was running on a slot scheduled for a non-wheelchair-accessible bus (Volvo B10M MkIV to be precise).
– Block number: Assigned two-digit reference number to every timetable planned for the route (which a bus is subsequently assigned to). Split shift timetables will have higher larger block numbers.
|SMRT Buses||(Service number) – (Service number) – (Block number)
where the Block number is an assigned reference number to every timetable planned for the route (which a bus is subsequently assigned to). Split shift timetables will have higher larger block numbers.
– Originally (Service number) – (Block number), reformatted in September 2016 to present form
e.g. 61-61-14, 184-184-6, 970-970-10, 985-985-7, etc.
In addition, depending on the bus operator or how the Trapeze unit is programmed, the bar on the top right box will be displayed either vertically or horizontally. A vertical bar shows Deviation from scheduled headway in minutes. A horizontal bar shows Schedule Deviation in minutes. The background color of the box and number of digits within the bar provides a visual indicator to the driver as to whether he should speed up, slow down or maintain his or her present speed.
The vertical bar is used for bus services which use the Excess Wait Time (EWT) as the service performance indicator (visit the BSRF article for more information), which applies to most bus services in Singapore. The horizontal bar is used on less-frequent bus services using the On-Time Adherence (OTA) indicator (e.g. Express 502 and 518, and Service 115, 191, 927).
|Vertical Bar||Deviation from scheduled headway (Minutes : seconds)||Excess Wait Time (EWT)|
|Horizontal Bar||Schedule Deviation (Minutes : seconds)||On-Time Adherence (OTA)|
It is worth mentioning the difference between Excess Wait Time (EWT) and On-Time Adherence. The EWT measures how the actual waiting time experienced by commuters deviates from the scheduled waiting time and is dependent on the timeliness of the front and rear buses. Trapeze uses a standard set of background colours for visual representation, namely Blue for early, Green for on time, Orange for late. Additionally, the colored vertical indicator bar illustrates how excessive the EWT is.
On the other hand, On-Time Adherence (OTA) only describes the deviation of a certain bus from its schedule and is shown as a horizontal bar. The colour scheme is similar to those described above, with Blue for early, Green for on time, and Orange for late. The example on the right shows a Service 45 bus running 6 minutes early with the corresponding horizontal bar filled up.
Distance to rear bus
Lastly, the Distance to Rear Bus indicator is a bus icon with a corresponding number, and appears only at bus stops. It shows how far behind the rear bus is, in number of minutes. Notice that in the first example, the rear bus is just 2 minutes behind, and corresponds to the schedule adherence indicator showing that the bus is running behind schedule. Rear bus loading level is displayed in the passenger icon (see above).
|Route Information Panel|
|① Current and subsequent bus stops||Centre panel that shows the current bus stop and next two bus stops along the route, along with the scheduled arrival times for all bus stops. The Trapeze unit scrolls through the list of bus stops while the bus is on the move, without driver input.|
|② Terminating stop||Shows the terminating stop on the last column, scheduled arrival time, and is shaded in grey.|
Current and subsequent bus stops
Taking up the bulk of the display space, the Route Information Panel displays current/subsequent bus stops and the scheduled time of arrival at these stops. Like a electronic bus schedule, it allows bus drivers to track their on-time progress easily without having to repeatedly refer to their printed schedules of the past, and scrolls automatically while the bus is on the move (without driver input).
Every unit is programmed with all bus schedules of the bus company, and drivers log in with their details before starting service, allowing the unit to display the correct schedule. With regular changes to bus stop names and schedules across the company, the pre-programmed schedules are updated wirelessly whenever a bus returns to the depot. This feature was originally introduced with the rollout of the existing New On-board Bus Equipment (NOBE) years ago, and we are unsure about the level of integration between the Trapeze and NOBE systems.
All programmed units scroll through route details with the final stop highlighted, be it a bus terminal or en-route stop for Short-Trip Services. On the left, a normal SBS Transit scenario with Service 28 terminating at Tampines Bus Interchange. On the right is SMRT Short-Trip service 975B which terminates at the bus stop OPP LIM CHU KANG LANE 3 along LIM CHU KANG RD and is reflected in the system.
Approaching a bus terminus, the Trapeze unit will display the route details of the following trip to fill up space. On the left, Service 41 approaching its last stop (Bef Seventh-Day Advent Ch) before Jurong East Interchange (scheduled arrival 12:41 pm), but the unit has scrolled to route details of the subsequent trip (departing at 12:52 pm).
On the right, the Trapeze unit of a terminating Service 106 split shift bus has scrolled onwards to route details after the driver’s split break. Having arrived at Bukit Batok Int three minutes early (compare scheduled and actual time), the bus will return to Bulim Depot by 12:39 pm and return to service later in the afternoon (at 3:07 pm).
Occasionally, an asterisk (*) will appear next to the timings provided by the route information panel. This indicates that the trip timing has been adjusted by BOCC, but the driver’s display still shows the original unadjusted timings.
The Bus Captain is hence required to adjust his driving accordingly by keeping an eye on his schedule adherence indicator or other instructions provided by BOCC. The photo on the right shows such a scenario onboard Bus Service 24 (Last Bus).
|① ENG – 中文||Toggles between English and Chinese|
|② Microphone||Manual message broadcast to commuters by the bus captain|
|③ Mailbox||Sends messages to BOCC and View previously displayed messages
– Blue mailbox = Messages yet to be cleared
– Red mailbox = Messages timed out
|④ Information||System information and help|
|⑤ Home||Return to home screen|
|⑥ Speaker||Volume control|
Command buttons make up the rest of the touch screen and are used for miscellaneous functions. Of note is the message function, which allows messages to be disseminated from Bus Operations Control Centre (BOCC) to an individual or all bus drivers. In addition, automated messages are displayed when drivers deviate from the schedule, such as ‘Follow your schedule’ or ‘请遵从您的时间表’ depending on the language selected by the driver.
When a message is displayed, the ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ icons appear, for drivers to acknowledge or dismiss the message. Ignoring a message will revert the Trapeze unit back to the main screen after a short while, with the message icon (bottom left rectangle) turning red, signifying no response to a particular message. BOCCs are notified if messages time out or go unacknowledged.
In addition, certain notifications which do not require driver acknowledgement only displays the ‘thumbs up’ button. Ignoring a message will revert the Trapeze unit back to the main screen after a short while, with the message icon (bottom left rectangle) turning blue. The red icon takes priority over the blue icon.
The mailbox feature can also send preset messages to BOCC, allowing drivers to provide real-time feedback to BOCC regarding on-route conditions.
|Right Side Buttons|
|F1||Request to talk to OCC|
|F2||Priority request to talk|
|F3||Breakdown request to talk|
|F4||Route Map & Satellite Navigation|
To the right of the touch screen, four more command buttons exist, three of which (F1-F3) allow drivers to speak with the Bus Operations Control Centre (BOCC) under normal, emergency or breakdown circumstances.
A fourth button (F4) turns the screen into a route map with satellite navigation guiding the driver, useful for drivers unfamiliar with a particular bus route. The bus route is traced out on a map, with GPS reporting the current position of the bus, and on the bottom left corner of the map, the route guidance function tells drivers where to turn at a particular junction along with a countdown distance. The home screen is restored by pressing F4 again.
What are the capabilities of the new system?
For the bus drivers, the new equipment sports a user-friendly interface available in English or Mandarin, and aids them with schedule adherence by displaying the scheduled arrival time at each bus stop and on-time performance prominently. The driver navigation feature aids drivers with little knowledge of the bus route. Furthermore, drivers and vehicles can communicate at any time with the BOCC via voice and data links (GSM/UMTS), while also able to broadcast messages from BOCCs to all drivers. Trapeze claims the system includes an automatic traffic light control system, giving priority to public transport vehicles at main intersections.
For the bus operators, the Common Fleet Management System (CFMS) provides a common system that enables real-time tracking, monitoring and management of public bus fleets on a single platform, while allowing the individual bus service operators to maintain their existing bus management tools. It integrates various bus information and data onto one platform that will provide useful information and overview of the island-wide bus network. This will enable more effective and efficient planning and management of bus service operations, optimising bus networks and resources.
With the focus on EWT performance, the Bus Operations Control Centre (BOCC) is alerted to instances of schedule deviation and bus bunching at real time, and can respond quickly and comprehensively through voice and data links, disseminating instructions to bus drivers. Furthermore, BOCC can quickly define diversion routes in the event of road any departures from regular service.
Furthermore, Trapeze will provide informative reports and statistics to LTA, which regulates bus services and accesses the performance of bus operators. The data would be used to calculate the EWT which will reward or penalise bus operators accordingly based on schedule adherence and service levels.
The Trapeze system will also be a platform that integrates future in-bus equipment, such as passenger information displays and voice announcements inside buses. The Trapeze system has already been able to integrate with SMRT’s Passenger Information System, which displays next stop information along the route. Audio announcements were turned on for a while during the initial trials and were subsequently deactivated after the system mispronounced many bus stops, owing to the system’s failure to interpret the acronyms and abbreviations used throughout bus stop naming in Singapore. (For example, ‘Blk 308’ would be pronounced ‘B. L. K. Three hundred and eight. )
Drawing from examples in London, LTA might even set up a centralised command centre for bus operations, such as CentreComm, Transport for London’s (TfL) emergency and command centre for buses. Using a standardised bus management system, CentreComm is able to respond to any incident that has an impact on the bus network, set up route diversions and coordinate an emergency response with the assistance of police and emergency services if required. This would leave BOCCs of individual bus companies focusing on the monitoring of their service performance standards.
With real-time information exchanges between BOCCs, bus drivers and commuters, the Trapeze system will be an intelligent system, enabling better optimisation of the fleet resources by dispatching buses to where they are needed and disseminating more accurate bus arrival timing to benefit commuters. With more accurate bus arrival information, commuters can better plan their journeys and travel options.
In December 2016, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) launched a new information display panel for buses, providing commuters with on-route information in real-time. The Passenger Information Display System (PIDS) is a new LCD panel installed on a Tower Transit MAN NL323F single-deck bus (SMB3053M), deployed on Bus Service 106 for a 2-month trial period.
The display panel utilises CFMS data. For more information, check out LTA trials new information display for buses.
While the Trapeze CFMS has been functioning well in public, a few deficiencies exist. Occasionally, the system would be unable to log in, and on rare occasions, the system freezes entirely.
With the Trapeze DDU Unit not installed on all buses, the EWT indicator is wildly inaccurate as it is unable to detect buses that are not fitted with the DDU. The same scenario appears when buses fail to log into the CFMS DDU.
External Links & References:
- Intelligent Bus Management System to enhance Commuters’ Journey Experience, LTA
- Trapeze Supplies Operations Management System to Singapore – Trapeze
- Intelligent Bus Management System – ST Electronics
- BCM: Bus Contracting Model
- BOCC: Bus Operations Control Centre
- CFMS: Common Fleet Management System
- DDU: Driver Display Unit
- IBMS: Intelligent Bus Management System
- IDFC: Integrated Driver Fare Console
- IVS: In-Vehicle System
- NOBE: New On-board Bus Equipment