Calling Melbourne. Come in, Melbourne!

496_Ferry.jpgWas blind, but now I see.

The one problem with the otherwise wonderful NextMuni system on the F-line is that the vintage car fleet wasn’t wired for it. When you looked at the live F-line map we helped NextMuni build, it only showed those streetcars with GPS units mounted onboard, which until recently included only the PCC and Milan cars.
For people waiting at a stop, this invisibility meant that the shelter display might say that the next car was 10 minutes away when in fact there was one only three minutes away, but without GPS.
Now, that’s starting to change, with the activation of GPS on 1928 Melbourne tram No. 496. It’s on the road, and on the map as this is written Sunday afternoon. The installation of these GPS units is actually the responsibility of NextBus, the vendor that supplies the maps and stop displays. They run off low-voltage (32V DC) power supplies, which the PCCs and Milan streetcars have, but which have been lacking in the older equipment, on which everything has been powered by 600 volt DC direct from the overhead trolley wire. Gradually, the Muni maintenance team, or outside contractors, have been adding these low voltage supplies to the vintage streetcars. The Melbourne partner of No. 496, 1946 No. 916, now undergoing modifications, will have one when it goes into service (likely next year). 1914 Muni car No. 162 has one and will soon have GPS installed. Flagship Muni car No. 1, about to complete testing after being rebuilt by a contractor, has it too now. On these cars, extra care is being taken to be sure the installation is as inconspicuous as possible to preserve the streetcar’s historic fabric.
Muni (and us) are looking for cost-effective ways to add GPS to streetcars not slated for near-term addition of low voltage circuits. Top among these is Blackpool, England “boat tram” No. 228.
We’ll keep you updated on the progress of this program.

Comments: 3

  1. One question would be how much power the GPS unit draws. Perhaps a rechargeable battery pack like the cable cars have for lights would be sufficient.

  2. Actually, 162 already has NextMuni GPS installed. On the few times it’s gone out, it shows up on the NextMuni map.

  3. Peter’s right. Thanks for the correction. Now to get the rest of them done!

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