Let’s face it, at one time or another, we have all stared down a subway tunnel or street looking to see when the next train or bus would arrive. We all thought that if we stared hard enough, we could magically make it come faster or appear out of nowhere.
Subway riders in some stations no longer have to partake in this long standing tradition due to PA/CIS real time information boards aka Subway Countdown Boards. An even smaller amount of bus riders have taken advantage of information due to electronic signs.
The availability of such information has taken a new step in the form of th 34th Street Crosstown BusPilot. The pilot program will provide real time location information for the M16 & M34 through an online web panel which is accessible from any internet ready mobile device. Here is more information courtesy of the press release sent to me on Thursday:
For the first time, MTA NYC Transit bus riders can track the exact location of buses, thanks to the new MTA BusTime pilot that launched today on the M16 and M34 routes in Midtown Manhattan. Aimed at giving riders a quick and easy means of determining approximately when the next bus will arrive at a specific stop, the new service provides estimated bus stop arrival times and map locations for crosstown buses running along the 34th Street corridor. The information, already available on electronic signs at bus stops, can now be accessed online, via Smartphone, PDA, or mobile phone.
Using the latest technology, the service is facilitated through the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) devices that report bus location data (and more). The system can then, in real time, show bus customers where buses are on a map or in tabular view. Using this information, customers will know when a bus is estimated to arrive at a particular stop, even if they are still at the office, shopping, or dining.
“Why rush to the bus stop when you can finish your cup of coffee or stop and grab a newspaper? Now we’re providing our customers with the information they need to make informed decisions about their travel before they get to the bus stop,” said NYC Transit President Thomas Prendergast. “Along with the new train arrival screens that are being activated in subways stations around the City, MTA BusTime is another example of how we are developing new ways to give customers information they can use.”
BusTime, developed by transit technology firm Clever Devices, also delivers real-time bus arrival information through on-demand or subscription-based e-mail and text-message alerts. This function features notices of service interruptions, emergencies, and other important events. All of the details on how to use MTA BusTime are available online at http://mta.info/bustime.
To use MTA BusTime online, simply choose Estimated Arrival Times or Bus Location Map on the BusTime web page to obtain bus arrival information on your computer.
Using your mobile phone (Track by Text) you can text ‘mtabus’ and the bus stop ID code to 41411 and get bus arrival information. Each bus stop along the route is assigned a specific text code. Bus stop text codes are located online (M16, M34) and at bus stops. (Important note: Standard carrier charges for text messaging may apply. Users should check with their mobile carrier first.)
You can subscribe to receive e-mail alerts and bus arrival notifications. You will receive an e-mail from: bustime (at) mta.info.com. Users should add it to their contacts so messages won’t go into their spam folder.
Click here to access the BusTime portal.
My initial thought is that this is a huge plus for the many riders who use the 34th Street corridor. Although similar technology has been in use by other transportation systems for years, it is nice to see it finally make its way to the MTA albeit via a pilot program with no guarantees of system wide implementation.
If I had it my way though, I think the money should be invested in real time signs at all bus stops as it is likely to help more versus a web based platform. While smartphones are owned by a lot of people, I am willing to bet that a significant percentage of bus riders do not own one. Let’s be honest, trying to access this panel from a non-smartphone will probably take awhile.
However in the end, it is better to have this versus nothing at all. Hopefully the pilot will be a huge success & lead to system wide implementation so all bus riders can benefit from such vital information. Here is to hoping!
xoxo Transit Blogger