Over the past few years, we’ve seen Transit begin the process of bringing real-time bus tracking to New York City. Eschewing an expensive, closed solution, the MTA instead went the open source route and has been developing BusTime, with its public API, in house for nearly two years. I explored the inner workings of the technology as it existed in February of 2011. Since then, a few routes in Brooklyn and Manhattan along with all of Staten Island have been added to BusTime, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Now, it’s nearing time for its Bronx debut.
Earlier this week, during testimony in front of the City Council, Craig Stewart, a Senior Corporate Management from Transit, said that the Bronx would, in fact, receive BusTime by the end of the month. “We are scheduled to fully deploy BusTime in the Bronx by the end of this month and to have it in all remaining boroughs by the end of 2013,” he said. “It is worth noting that customer feedback on the MTA Bus Time initiative has been overwhelmingly positive.” According to The Daily News, nearly 30 percent of Staten Island bus riders have used the service.
Available online via a mobile or full-featured browser and with the information accessible via text message as well, BusTime informs riders of how far away the next bus along the chosen route is. It’s a little less precise than a countdown clock with minutes, but bus travel time varies based on surface traffic. From my use of it in Brooklyn, it seems to take only a few refreshes to ascertain how long a wait will be and how distance translates into time. As the city-wide rollout continues, this technology should vastly improve the experience of traveling on — and waiting for — our buses. Now how about more dedicated lanes and a city-wide pre-board payment system?