One of the MTA’s fanciest new tech toys that would, if rolled out systemwide, greatly improve the bus system is BusTime tracking program unveiled in October. Using technology developed by Clever Devices, the MTA can present real-time bus location information along the M16 and M34 routes, and the authority hopes to bring this to the rest of the city.
There is a hitch though as there often is. Clever Devices’ technology is very expensive — prohibitively so for a system as vast as New York’s, and according to a recent post on the MTA Developer Resources’ Google Groups, the authority is looking for an in-house solution. The MTA’s Bus Customer Information Systems team is searching for a Technical Analyst (pdf) and a Senior Business Analyst (pdf) who will help evaluate a pilot and scale it for full-fleet deployment.
The project description provides a glimpse into the authority’s thinking:
We are using modular components, Open Standards, Open Data, and (when appropriate) Open Source Software to lower costs and bring benefits to our passengers as quickly as possible. Real-time bus information will be made available to passengers over the web, mobile devices, and text messages, as well as applications developed by developers using open data feeds.
We are playing the overall role of a systems engineer and integrator, allowing us to buy different components of the system from different vendors (e.g. on-bus hardware separately from the central data/web server) and connect them using open standard interfaces. This approach depends heavily on a small but highly-skilled team of analysts and engineers to understand the requirements of our large and complex real- world bus operation, architect the overall system, and work with multiple vendors to ensure the system is delivered as designed.
While subway countdown clocks make travel more pleasant and less stressful, bus timers can revolutionize a bus system. If riders know exactly where the bus is and how long it will take to arrive at a certain stop, potential riders will be far more likely to wait for the bus and can time their trips appropriately. It removes the mystery and frustrating waits — currently one of the bus system’s biggest problems — from the ride, and it can make the bus a convenient part of travel instead of a trip that happens only if the bus is in sight. I’ll be watching this effort closely as the MTA tries to bring a badly-needed technology to its vast bus fleet .