NICE is unveiling several new high-tech initiatives, from real-time bus tracking on mobile phones to video cameras on buses, and bringing back a low-tech convenience for straphangers: straps.
Among the many features in the newest fleet of Nassau buses are old-fashioned straps mounted on rails for standing riders to grab during their trips. It's been years since Nassau buses featured individual handles.
"We decided to put these back in," Nassau Inter-County Express CEO Michael Setzer said during a tour Thursday of its new Xcelsior model buses, made by Winnipeg, Manitoba-based New Flyer. "We have a lot of standees, and these are safe."
The 52 new buses, manufactured in Anniston, Alabama, cost about $465,000 each and were largely paid for with federal and state funding. About nine of the new buses will begin making runs next week.
Other features include: a transparent barrier by the fare box to shield drivers from attacks; 10 video cameras mounted inside and outside buses to record incidents and accidents; and lights on the sides of buses to help drivers see adjoining travel lanes better.
The buses will replace older vehicles that have been on the road for a dozen years or more.
"If we can park 52 of our worst performers and replace them with these, then customers will experience much more reliability," Setzer said.
Key to those reliability goals is the state-of-the-art NICE Integrated System, designed and built by Woodbury-based Clever Devices. The technology allows NICE to use global positioning systems to provide real-time information on all its vehicles to bus dispatchers and to customers.
Various aspects of the new technology have come online over the last several months -- the most recent of which is a new function on NICE's mobile device application.
Gomobile, powered by Transit App, can automatically pinpoint a rider's location, tell him what routes are nearby, and how far away a bus is. An alarm feature even notifies a user when a bus is minutes away.
"That way, I can sit at my desk, or work, or get a cup of coffee. The alarm will go off, and then I'll know, 'Oh, now I've got to start walking,' " NICE spokesman Jack Kzhous said. "I don't have to go to a bus stop and wait 20 minutes or 25 minutes. I can be as productive as I can be prior to that bus arriving."
NICE has also recently begun using the GPS technology to help track and route its buses.
For the first time, dispatchers in NICE's Garden City headquarters have a real-time view of all its 300 buses. NICE officials said that allows them to quickly respond to incidents, and will provide valuable information for adjusting schedules.