Home Buses BusTime makes its Manhattan debut

BusTime makes its Manhattan debut

by Benjamin Kabak

Amidst much anticipation, Manhattan now has real-time bus tracking as the MTA unveiled BusTime for the County of New York. At around midnight this morning, BusTime — the MTA’s in-house-built, distance-based system — went live on nearly all Manhattan bus routes. The system is available on the web right here, and already, bus bunching is on display for all to see.

In announcing the new technology, a variety of MTA officials made their perfunctory statements. “MTA Bus Time is a game changer and a service that greatly enhances our customers’ experience with bus travel,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. “MTA Bus Time has turned your phone into a tool that tells you when to start walking to the bus stop so you can get there right when the bus does. Meet your bus, don’t wait for it.”

Those riders who can now meet their buses — or opt to walk — instead of waiting include those who use the following routes: M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M7, M8, M9, M10, M11, M14A, M14D, M15, M15 SBS, M20, M21, M22, M23, M31, M35, M42, M50, M57, M60, M66, M72, M79, M86, M101, M102, M103, M104, M106, and M116. The M34 and M34A were already a part of BusTime, and Brooklyn- and Queens-based routes that enter Manhattan will be added as BusTime comes to those boroughs and depots within in the next six months. The MTA estimates that 93 percent of all Manhattan bus riders can now track their routes.

To bring this borough’s iteration of BusTime online, the agency’s small in-house staff had to code in 1800 bus stops while adding GPS hardware to the buses that operate in the city. Since 2012, the MTA has installed this technology on 2852 buses. Conveniently, the MTA also provided a list of apps already accessing the BusTime API. Those include, for iOS All Aboard NYC; All Schedules Free; Bing Mobile; Bus New York City; Google Maps for Mobile; In Time Staten Island; Ride On Time NYC; Roadify; and Transit Times. For Android, Bus Tracker Pro – MTA NY and Sched NYC feature real-time bus information.

As with the previous boroughs, Manhattan’s BusTime is based on distance rather than time. Since travel times are variable and far more costly to get right, the MTA has gone with a distance-based approach that allows riders to estimate potential wait times. It’s not perfect, but any regular rider should pick up on the idiosyncrasies within a handful of uses.

Meanwhile, through the web interface, you can see bus bunching in action. Earlier today, a variety of north-south lines had two, three or even four buses all within 10 blocks of each other with big gaps in service. Jason Rabinowitz at NYC Aviation noted the problem with the M60 and service across 125th St., a particular sore spot after a vocal minority temporarily squashed bus improvements for the congested corridor.

With a wealth of location data now available, hopefully, the MTA can begin to attack the problem of bunching head on. For everyone else, now you know where your bus is and that hopeless stare down an avenue can become a thing of the past.

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AJ October 7, 2013 - 4:32 pm

M96 and M98 are also included

Guest October 7, 2013 - 4:47 pm

Walking is fast anyway.

Guest October 7, 2013 - 4:48 pm

Walking is faster than riding the bus***

Bolwerk October 7, 2013 - 5:15 pm

Now if only the buses in Manhattan would, um, work.

SubwayNut October 7, 2013 - 5:20 pm

For the record, the M100 already has had bus time for a year because its based at a Bronx depot.

Phil October 7, 2013 - 5:21 pm

Drivers like to wait at the end of the line, taking a long break. Then they leave together and keep passing each other. They’ll tell you it’s congested traffic but it’s really deliberate lazy goldbricking and they should be fired for it. It’s common on the m15, q69, and I noticed it on the m79 the other day.

tacony palmyra October 7, 2013 - 9:16 pm

I’d never thought of/heard of this but if it’s true it should be really easy to identify and reprimand drivers for it now that every rider can see it happening on their phone as they wait at the stop.

pea-jay October 7, 2013 - 9:40 pm

When do we get bus time on queens routes?

Epson45 October 8, 2013 - 12:17 am

April 2014, unless its delay.

Boris October 8, 2013 - 12:32 am

In a few months.

Terratalk October 8, 2013 - 1:44 am

I love this!!! The M60 “bunching” is a pet peeve of mine and now it is so much easier to report the buses that arbitrarily skip the pickup at Astoria/77th street Westbound or the buses that hang out in the airport and then rush to 125 to switch drivers – oh, we gotcha now!

Nyland8 October 8, 2013 - 6:37 am

I just downloaded the app onto my iPhone, and I’m already in limbo.

I’m on a page that is displaying nothing, and there seems to be no way out. The top banner has, from left to right, a bus icon; “Nearby”; and a button that says “Refresh” … and none of them do anything. Whats more, I can’t back-page, and when I close the app and reopen it, I just come back to the same page.

To call this a glitch would be an understatement.

BruceNY October 8, 2013 - 10:43 am

I’ve been tracking the M31 (York Ave.)–it’s usually very accurate, but last night a bus rolled by around 10PM that didn’t appear at all.

Phillip Roncoroni October 9, 2013 - 2:17 pm

Did you note the bus number and tweet it to @nyctbusstop?

ben guthrie October 8, 2013 - 11:33 am

I can’t seem to be able to find Bus Tracker Pro. Google play doesn’t have it. anyone have suggestions?

ben guthrie October 8, 2013 - 5:57 pm

forgot to check notify

Matthias October 9, 2013 - 11:56 am

It’s about time. The other night I took the M100/101 because I could see that several were very close to me. I just missed one and the one I boarded sat still for a few minutes for a “schedule adjustment”. Then we caught up to the bus in front of us and held there for a few minutes more. Even though I didn’t have to wait more than 2 minutes for the bus, it was still barely faster than walking.

The next step HAS to be combining bus stops, giving buses signal priority and creating dedicated lanes. That should at least reduce bunching and delays.


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