GPS System for Bus Driver

edited November -1 in GPS Recommendations
Hi folks, I know I'm breaking every netiquette rule in the book here, but I'm up a creek, and will defer to the knowledge of the hive mind.

I am in charge of a small, underfunded transportation service. I have a brand new driver who is not familiar with the city we operate in. Additionally, several other of my drivers have called in sick, and therefore this new driver is left to her own devices in finding her way around town, with only me sitting at my computer with a radio, and another driver operating a 2nd vehicle, also on radio. In order to make our pickups today, she has to drive before knowing her way around town...not ideal, but that's what I'm stuck with.

My initial thought, is to pick up an inexpensive GPS unit to mount in the vehicle.

I'm not too knowledgeable about nav GPS, although I have used handheld GPS for a long time (mostly Garmin) and know the technology in a general sense.

Therefore, I am looking for the best GPS unit option (in the $150 ballpark, we've got no $$) that would allow me to quickly zap a list of 250 or addresses into the unit via a PC. Also, voice directions are necessary.

I'm not committed to one brand or another, any and all suggestions appreciated.

Any thoughts?

Comments

  • Any of the lower end Garmin Nuvis can do what you want. Some are even less than $150 and even have text-to-speech where the street names are spoken. Try to get Garmin to send you the Mapsource program for free because they've done it in the past. As for sending addresses, that is easily done with Mapsource and then you can transfer them to the GPS unit quickly via a USB cable.

    If you can't get Mapsource for free, let me know and I'll let you borrow mine if you promise to return it. It SHOULD be included with every Garmin unit anyway and it used to be. Another way for them to cheap out...again. :roll:

    If you're good with Excel, you don't need Mapsource. You can build your own custom POI list and send it to the unit with Garmin's free POI Loader you can download right from their website. Use Google earth, type in the addresses and get the lat/long coordinates. The format is: 1st column) Longitude, 2nd column) Lattitude, 3rd column) Name of address and 4th column) Whatever you want, such as, amplifying info, hours of operation, phone number, etc. Save it as a comma separated value (.csv) file. It's a lot easier than it sounds.
  • Airgunner, that is valuable advice. Thank you. I'm looking at the Nuvi 255 right now, decent sale at Best Buy.
  • Glad I could help. Let me know if you need any help creating Excel POI files. If you sign up at poifactory.com, you can download one (they're all free) and open it up in Excel to see what the format looks like. Very easy to make your own using that format. Lots of useful POI files, too. :)
  • Keep in mind that the 200 series Nuvi devices don't support saved routes, aka Multi Destination Routing. Therefore if you load 200+ addresses into the device you would need to create a route to the destination, one at a time. Then reset the GPS for the next destination, etc.

    If you want to setup a certain path for the driver to follow ahead of time and save it to the device, you would need at least the Nuvi 700 series.

    Creating custom POI files is easy for people very familiar with Excel, text editors, fast with a keyboard/mouse, etc. But for many people it is a big headache and I see many people give-up on the process.

    Here are some additional threads where people have discussed/attacked questions similar to yours.

    School Bus Driver - Multiple stops and multiple routes
    School bus driver and GPS?
    Need Help To Program Route Please
  • If you want to setup a certain path for the driver to follow ahead of time and save it to the device, you would need at least the Nuvi 700 series.
    One way to "trick" it is to select the destinations in order from the custom POI file. That way they will appear in reverse order (most recently found on top) under "recently found". He can do that for her ahead of time since he already knows the city and, probably, the best way to hit all those destinations.
    Creating custom POI files is easy for people very familiar with Excel, text editors, fast with a keyboard/mouse, etc. But for many people it is a big headache and I see many people give-up on the process.
    Aw, how hard can it be? Text editor? Not needed... Go to Google Maps. Type in an address. Copy paste the long/lat into columns 1 and 2 in an open Excel spreadsheet. Type in the name and other desired info in columns 3 and 4. Wash, rinse, repeat for other addresses and save as .csv. Very simple.

    Also, you don't even need Excel. I forgot that with Google Maps, you can type in the address and in the upper right corner of the map page, click on "send" then GPS. It will take you to a Garmin page and you can save that address as a favorite right to the GPS. Edit the favorite on the GPS for any other wanted information. Again, very easy.
  • One way to "trick" it is to select the destinations in order from the custom POI file. That way they will appear in reverse order (most recently found on top) under "recently found".
    Not all that easy if you have dozens or more locations to visit in one route. Also it can't be "saved" so it is very easy to clear the route accidentally and it will disappear.
    Aw, how hard can it be? Go to Google Maps. Type in an address. Copy paste the lat/long into an open Excel spreadsheet. Type in the name and other desired info. Wash, rinse, repeat for other addresses and save as .csv. Very simple.
    I think quite a few people would disagree that the process is simple. I've spent dozens of hours helping people try to create custom POI files. It is simple for people who are good with computers.... but that isn't everyone.
  • The Garmin Nuvi 750 can also be found for under $200 and includes multi-destination routing with the ability to save routes ahead of time. People purchasing the 700 series devices or higher generally have a bit more luck getting the MapSource program from Garmin than the 200 series devices. (Not required, but you can build routes on it and transfer the entire route versus just individual locations.)
  • Not all that easy if you have dozens or more locations to visit in one route. Also it can't be "saved" so it is very easy to clear the route accidentally and it will disappear.
    Just keep "canned routes" on the computer and print them out as necessary at the beginning of the day. "In-flight" changes can be made over the radio. Still eons better than his situation right now.
    I think quite a few people would disagree that the process is simple. I've spent dozens of hours helping people try to create custom POI files. It is simple for people who are good with computers.... but that isn't everyone.
    Then I feel really sorry for people who can't master a basic address look up and cut/paste. And, as I said, you don't even have to do that as you can directly send an address to the GPS via Google Maps. No Excel or text editing required.
  • The Garmin Nuvi 750 can also be found for under $200 and includes multi-destination routing with the ability to save routes ahead of time. People purchasing the 700 series devices or higher generally have a bit more luck getting the MapSource program from Garmin than the 200 series devices. (Not required, but you can build routes on it and transfer the entire route versus just individual locations.)
    Wow, I didn't know the 750 was that cheap. That's probably the best and easiest way for him to go if he's not looking to squeeze out the last penny on the cheapest unit. And, OP, if you have trouble getting Mapsource, let me know. It's been given out many times for free before (got it for my sister and she has a 200) and there's not even an unlock code required. Mine's the 2007 base map version, but you can update the maps there, too. I'm running the 2009.11 lifetime map over the 2007 base map. 8)
  • The TomTom XL 330 can be found for $140 and the TomTom XL 330s which adds Text To Speech can be found for about $150. Both of those also support multi destination routing, saved routes, and the ability to send destinations from your computer, etc.
  • Great stuff, folks. It is much appreciated.

    We're a little unusual, in that we have very irregular routes, differing daily depending upon who has signed up for the day. Therefore, saving the routes is not as important as just being able to blast a bunch of data in for general rider addresses.
  • Maybe Tim can provide more information, but what you want is a GPS that can solve the "traveling salesman" problem. My old Street Pilot could do this. You can input several destinations in any order and it would figure out the most efficient route to hit them all. Not sure if the Nuvis with multi-point routing can do this. Being able to build a route with several destinations is not the same as it solving the best way "around the lap". I'm not sure if any Nuvis do that, but I'll bet Tim knows. :)
  • You can input several destinations in any order and it would figure out the most efficient route to hit them all. Not sure if the Nuvis with multi-point routing can do this.
    Yes, the Nuvi 700 series and above can do that. (We call it Route Optimization.) The TomTom devices I mentioned can save routes with destinations in a particular order, but they will not audo-sort for the most efficient route.
  • Well, folks, thanks again for the suggestions. I know you've all been sitting around, waiting on the edge of your seats to hear what I ended up doing (sarcasm)...

    I ended up with the Garmin Nuvi 255. The price was right, and my main concerns were a) keeping within my budget ($150), and b) getting things rocking TODAY!

    I almost made it on both counts.

    The GPS came in at $150 at Best Buy, which is fine...but when I added the USB cable that I needed, it went a little over. Sure most people have hundreds of digicam cables sitting around, and I do too...at home, not at work. Oh well. In fact, I have to return one, as the first one I purchased didn't end up working. According to Garmin (whom I spent 15 minutes on the phone with today), some USB cables just don't work. Luckily, my second attempt worked.

    Once I had the cable issue worked out, I started updating the unit (including the 1.8 gig map upgrade, which is still downloading at the work computer).

    However, I've got my files are sorted for transfer, and look forward to having a much smoother day tomorrow.

    Thanks.
  • I understand the time constraint, but its a pity you couldnt get the 750!

    The route optimization would have made it worthwhile.
  • I was wondering what about Coach Bus Drivers? I am looking at getting a job as a coach driver and would love a gps with real-time traffic that shows alternate routes around when needed but there are just some roads a coach bus will not fit down. Is there a decent GPS unit that will accomodate for that?
  • MacSteve, Garmin makes a line for truck drivers that has weight and height avoidances, but also includes traffic. That should work for a bus also.

    https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=275
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