Transport Authority

Transport Authority STI Bus AG

With IRMA MATRIX to a reliable service in the Bernese highlands.

Thun, Canton of Berne, Switzerland

Thun is called the gateway to the Bernese Highlands. The city lies on the outflow of the Aare from Lake Thun and is the eleventh largest city in Switzerland. Today, the Thun metropolitan area has about 90,000 inhabitants.

Key company data

STI Bus AG is a Swiss transport company based in the city of Thun - the gateway to the Bernese Highlands. 

In 1913, the first line of today's STI AG between Steffisburg-Thun-Oberhofen was put into operation by tram. Starting in 1940, the company gradually switched over to bus routes and expanded them. 

Today STI connects 37 communities with a network of 444 km.
With 86 scheduled buses, the transport company transports 15.7 million passengers annually over a total of 5 million kilometers. 

Interview with Marco Rossinelli

Workshop manager: Responsible for the evaluation and introduction/operation of automatic passenger counting (APC) systems

Mr. Rossinelli is a trained automotive diagnostician and has already completed his apprenticeship in public transport. Today he is the workshop manager of STI Bus AG. Through his training, he is more than familiar with the electrical side of vehicles. With the introduction of the operations control system in 2012, he assumed responsibility for the technical side of the project and, based on the experience gained from previous projects, led the evaluation of the passenger counting systems. 

In addition to servicing its own vehicles, STI Bus AG also services third-party vehicles from all over Switzerland.

In addition to the disposition of the vehicles - one of his main tasks - Mr. Rossinelli describes the operations control system and passenger counting as an unusual hobby in his position. We do not call him a proven expert in the field of automatic passenger counting only after our visit to Thun.

1. The classic starting point

Before the introduction of automatic passenger counting, STI Bus AG also had the passenger figures determined manually. For this purpose, the driver determined the number of passengers boarding the bus on a fixed date in the month up to the end point. The number of entrants in the count always referred to the total distance and not to the stations of the journey. In extensive background work, these transport figures were then used for extrapolation. This was accompanied by high personnel and time expenditure. In addition, the figures could not be used elsewhere - which made the high effort even less justifiable.

When the company was admitted to the Libero Tariff Association in 2019, the requirement for proof of passenger kilometers travelled changed. Automatic counting to determine the number of passengers getting on and off at each stop was now explicitly required.

This has given STI the opportunity to integrate capacity planning, the determination of a meaningful frequency and scheduling into the requirements of the counting system in order to be able to use the passenger figures efficiently to improve its network. 

2. A (nearly) classical solution

Through an intensive evaluation phase, STI has dealt with a wide variety of technologies and manufacturers of passenger counting sensors. The expertise in electronic equipment and the integration of the individual components into the vehicles made it possible to formulate a number of important requirements.

  1. Highest possible quality of the raw data
    = offers a clean basis for further processing of the data
  2. One sensor per door
    = easy installation  
  3. One component
    = minimizes the effort for fault finding in the vehicle

In 2013, the Thun Transport Authority put the control system into operation. The passenger counting system was activated in December 2016 in 37 vehicles of different manufacturers. This corresponds to a 1/3 equipment plus the vehicles with fixed rotations. In the meantime, all new vehicles are already equipped with passenger counting and the proportion of counting vehicles has risen to 49. STI's fleet is constantly being modernized. 

49 Vehicles 
were equipped with IRMA sensors.

In addition to the classic benefits of passenger figures such as revenue sharing, capacity planning and the determination of a sensible timing, STI Bus AG also uses the data to compare with customer complaints or messages. If complaints about overcrowded vehicles are received, it can be checked promptly at headquarters whether the passenger's perception actually corresponds to the occupancy level of the vehicle - given that it is a counting vehicle.

3. The somewhat different task

Line 22 is the exception in the classic AFZ solution from STI Bus AG. It travels through a remote area of the city in which mainly elderly and therefore less mobile people live. 

The line is operated with a Sprinter and has only 4 stops along the entire route where the departure times are fixed. The special feature is that it is possible to get on and off at any place on the line - the residents and their visitors can thus get directly from the front door to the city center and back again. 

To enable STI to determine the passenger kilometers on this route as accurately as possible, they have invented 25 further stops in addition to the 4 fixed ones, which divide the route into 29 sectors. In this way, STI Bus AG is able to determine the benefit of the route - on the other hand, the service is highly appreciated by the residents.

Why IRMA

Iris sensors stand for high quality and very good service. In the in-house test tracks, each individual sensor manufactured on site goes through defined procedures to ensure smooth operation under a wide variety of external influences. The employees of STI were able to convince themselves of this directly in production during a training course in Berlin. This creates confidence in the technology and the support and has convinced the colleagues at STI Bus AG involved to this day. 

Due to the very good experience in the vehicles of STI Bus AG, the company recommended and implemented the same counting system to Niederhornbahn AG. The special feature is that it is not the vehicles that are equipped, but the passage through which the passengers reach the cabins. Here, too, precise information on passenger numbers over the entire operating period is expected.

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