Disney Bus Transportation: Clever Devices Intelligent Transportation System (ITS)

Mouse Transit

Active Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
No
Clever Devices' Intelligent Transportation System (ITS)

Walt Disney World recently upgraded its bus transportation system. The new system is Clever Devices' Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technology. It uses the Real-Time Passenger Information (RTPI) system or BusTime® which allows Walt Disney World to communicate with its passengers. Using GPS and schedule data, this system calculates the arrival time of buses for stops and routes. According to the Clever Devices website, the Intelligent Vehicle Network (IVN) is the vehicle logic unit that controls the ITS technology package on the buses. The IVN is the onboard computer or "vehicle logic" that is designed to manage "transportation applications, collecting and transmitting data, either in real-time or upon arrival."

One of the benefits of the new system is that it's IP-based, so WDW guests can better use their mobile devices for WDW resort bus transportation information.

There are several problems with the new system in its current state of implementation and configuration. Some or all of these issues could take months or even years to fully resolve.

Before the closure on March 15, 2020, Disney was implementing the new bus ITS in phases, mostly by park region. It was first used at Fort Wilderness where it worked well given the spatial condition of that resort and its dedicated internal buses. In the summer of 2019, the ITS was observed on the buses shuttling Cast Members going to/from the utilidor from West Clock parking lot. Then, they started using it at Disney Springs. After that, the ITS was used at Disney's Animal Kingdom in mid-February. On March 2, 2020, they started using it at EPCOT. The system was not being used at Hollywood Studios or the Magic Kingdom when the parks closed on March 15, 2020. Currently, the system isn't modified for the phased reopening of resorts. As a result, for the time being, drivers are using paper timesheets.

System Design

Based on my many observations and initial research, the first and possibly most important issue with the new system is that it's designed for a city and not the supply and demand nature of WDW Resort.

Contrary to popular belief, WDW bus transportation is not like city bus transportation. Disney has to supply buses according to the ebb and flow of demand at resorts to get people to and from the parks efficiently. With the old Disney bus dispatch system, bus drivers, dispatchers, load zone and upstream coordinators managed this demand in part with the use of radios. There are no radios with the new system. They have only a handset that can be used when the bus is completely stopped. Bus transportation needs are supposed to be managed by the new system and cameras at load zones.

As an example, on a particular day at WDW, there can be hundreds of people at the All-Star Resorts waiting for a bus to Hollywood Studios while, at the same time, nobody is waiting for a bus at Riviera Resort. City buses don't deal with this specific demand. In a city, it doesn't matter if there is one person or 50 people waiting for the bus. The buses arrive and depart as scheduled no matter how many people are waiting for it. Arguably, the only places on Disney property where Disney bus transportation is like a city's bus transportation are multi-stop resorts with a dedicated internal bus (e.g., Fort Wilderness and Caribbean Beach Resort.)

The inherent design of the Clever Devices ITS for a city doesn't mean it won't work at WDW. It's just that it may take a considerable amount of time to configure it to work correctly.

Route Time Calibration

The second issue is that the new system does not seem to be correctly calibrated to the bus routes yet.

The picture below is of the system's Transit Control Head (TCH) or mobile data terminal. You can figure out what most of the display means just by looking at it. The time you see (07:25) is a countdown clock for the bus at the current load zone. In this case, the bus has 7 minutes and 25 seconds (and counting) before it's supposed to depart the load zone. In many cases, like the one in the picture, the bus is already loaded with guests and ready to depart. However, unless there's another bus waiting to get into the same load zone, the bus driver waits and runs down the clock. This might not happen at resorts with single load zones (Poly, GF, etc.) where buses tend to queue waiting to pick up people. But, in places with multiple load zones or no bus waiting behind them, the drivers may wait so they stay in sync with the system clock. The surplus of time is only put to use when the driver has to load multiple ECVs or has other passenger issues. Thus, the system route times are overcalculated.

Operational Status

The third issue I observed with the new system is common to most new systems. The operational status of the system was online some days; offline on other days. If the system was offline, the bus drivers were using timesheets. The frequency at which the new system is unavailable affects its reliability.

Load Zone LCD Arrival Time Accuracy

Another issue is the actual bus arrival times being in sync with the posted arrival times on the load zone LCD screen at Disney resort hotels. Although I never spent a full day at a resort's load zone, I did spend portions of the day at several of them in addition to noting posted times while riding buses. I observed that Hollywood Studios' buses (without the new system) were generally in sync with the load zone LCD screens whereas buses from Disney Springs and Disney's Animal Kingdom were not in many cases.

Sources

Now, about my sourcing of this information. I observed these issues while taking several hundred bus journeys earlier this year for an entirely different reason - to collect arrival, departure, and delay information to better improve my Walt Disney World itinerary planning. Over many weeks in February and March, after I noted the issues, I took all of the buses in and out of Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom to have a temporal baseline from the old system. This allowed me to compare and contrast my transit observations from Disney Springs and Disney's Animal Kingdom buses.

Also, during that time, I discussed these issues with about 40-50 bus drivers. Many discussions were lengthy and in-depth. While there were a few drivers who told me they like the new system and didn't see any issues with it, the vast majority of drivers with whom I spoke acknowledged these problems with the new system.

After all the Disney Resort hotels reopen later this year/early next year, the new Disney bus transportation system should be operational more frequently. I hope this thread can be updated with relevant observations as time passes to document the system's implementation process and foster discussion about it.

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Chip Chipperson

Well-Known Member
If this gets us more accurate - and consistently available - information on bus arrivals then I love it. It's very frustrating when the bus stop displays only have arrival estimates for 1 or 2 destinations and have inaccurate estimates. There's nothing quite as deflating while waiting for the bus to a park as seeing the screen display a time that has already passed and there's still no bus in sight.
 

JoeCamel

Well-Known Member
What could go wrong?
Lighting strike or power surge. Oh, I know, the power goes out! That has happened a few times.
I'm sure this outside firm has competent engineers that have provided a system with all the necessary safeguards and that WDW was glad to implement ALL the engineer's asks, wants and needs to ensure this system operates flawlessly.

But it is out of calibration and needs 6 months of softs to patch the problems......
 

asianway

Well-Known Member
Lighting strike or power surge. Oh, I know, the power goes out! That has happened a few times.
I'm sure this outside firm has competent engineers that have provided a system with all the necessary safeguards and that WDW was glad to implement ALL the engineer's asks, wants and needs to ensure this system operates flawlessly.

But it is out of calibration and needs 6 months of softs to patch the problems......
Like the monorail automation?
 

Kamikaze

Well-Known Member
I know. I was just joking about how I got startled when I first saw the letters "IP," considering Disney's recent history. Thank you, though.

I was more replying to the OP's insinuation that this somehow would increase the effectiveness of the system, not what you said.
 

Mouse Transit

Active Member
Original Poster
In the Parks
No
It's very frustrating when the bus stop displays only have arrival estimates for 1 or 2 destinations and have inaccurate estimates.

Exactly. The best-case scenario (i.e., what we want to see) is the current, posted, and actual arrival time of the bus exactly or about the same (the bottom pic was taken at 6:32 PM)

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In Feb/March, when I was taking many bus rides, this best-case scenario was happening for DHS and MK buses far more often than DAK and DS buses based on my observations. But, not always. In the following case, a DHS bus arrived on time but it wasn't posted on the screen at the bus stop/load zone.

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But, this is still better than what I often observed with DAK and DS buses. For example, one day while waiting at GF for my bus to DS, I observed a DAK bus arrive and depart 10 min early. At 1:45 pm, my DS bus arrived at GF - five min before the posted bus stop arrival time of 1:50 PM. We departed at 1:47 PM and arrived at DS at 2:09 PM.

I was more replying to the OP's insinuation that this somehow would increase the effectiveness of the system, not what you said.

Sorry for the confusion.

First, I never said the previous system wasn't IP-based nor connected to a network. Second, as far as the term "IP-based" meaning zero, it means it's digital and not analog, like a paper timesheet which bus drivers still use. Here's one:

IMG_0068.JPG


There's been a change in how buses are dispatched with the new system. If anyone is "insinuating" an improvement in the effectiveness of their new system it's Clever Devices - not me. The whole point of my post is to show that the new system is NOT accurate. As I said, actual DHS and MK bus arrival and departure times (old system) were far more accurate than DAK and DS buses (new system) in February/March based on my observations and data collection.

If I'm still unclear, let me be blunt: if we're desiring more accurate arrival/departure times, the entire bus transportation system is better off with paper timesheets and radios right now than with the new Clever Devices system in its current state.

But, that's my opinion, of course :)
 

MonorailCoral

Active Member
If I'm at a resort or a park waiting for a bus, and the bus happens to get caught up in heavy traffic, is the new system smart enough to give me a near-real-time update telling me it may be 15-20 minutes late so I can go grab a quick bite to eat or something instead of standing around in line...Or is it really only good for perfect conditions?
 

Thelazer

Well-Known Member
Heard about this when the first test was rolled out. I can confirm the issues you mention are very real.
There is other concerns, taking the radio away from the bus drivers, who are the first to spot "Concerns" along the roads... is a big one.
 

JoeCamel

Well-Known Member
If I'm at a resort or a park waiting for a bus, and the bus happens to get caught up in heavy traffic, is the new system smart enough to give me a near-real-time update telling me it may be 15-20 minutes late so I can go grab a quick bite to eat or something instead of standing around in line...Or is it really only good for perfect conditions?
Supposed to be but not ready for prime time yet and until it is don't count on it getting there. Be better if they cloned the Uber app and showed where the busses are on a map.
 
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