BusTime for Brooklyn, Queens to go live in ‘next several weeks’

By · Published in 2014

Earlier this week, State Assemblyman Paul Goldfeder’s office sent out what I thought was an oddly-phrased press release along with a letter the Queens representative sent to MTA head Tom Prendergast. In the letter, Goldfeder called upon the MTA to include Queens in its plans for BusTime.

“Waiting for a bus in Queens should not be a guessing game,” he said. “I applaud the MTA for using technology to better their services for customers and I strongly urge them to include all New Yorkers in their latest advances and implement the real-time bus locator app for Queens residents as soon as possible.”

What struck me as odd was the fact that the MTA had always said BusTime would be a city-wide effort and that the rest of the city would receive real-time bus tracking info by the middle of this year. Everything I had heard from MTA sources indicated that the rollout was on time, and I asked Goldfeder’s office if they had heard otherwise. His press rep clarified that Goldfeder “sent a letter to the Chairman to make sure the app does come to Queens and there’s no second thoughts.” An app without one borough would be no app indeed.

In response to Goldfeder’s inquiry, the MTA has stressed its commitment to Brooklyn and Queens. If you look closely enough at the MTA’s bus fleet — and know what to look for — you’ll see that the equipment for BusTime is already in place, and the MTA has said that it should be live soon. “We have completed boroughwide installations in Queens and Brooklyn and are currently fine-tuning software,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said in response to various inquiries. “We are on schedule to go online in the next several weeks.”

So there you have it: Ask for an update, and ye shall receive. A citywide implementation of BusTime should do wonders for bus ridership and the overall convenience of New York’s otherwise unreliable local buses. If only now we could do something about the clunky fare payment system.

38 Responses to “BusTime for Brooklyn, Queens to go live in ‘next several weeks’”

  1. Melissa says:

    “Guessing game” is an understatement of the bus situations in Queens. Would be one thing if their runs even remotely resembled the time tables, which they do not.

    I moved to Chicago from Queens and we have city-wide live bus tracking and there are tons of great apps for it. I almost never rode the bus in NYC and I ride the bus all the time in Chicago because of it.

    • Joe says:

      Yep, plus the buses in Chicago actually tell you the TIME until they arrive, unlike MTA’s Bus”Time” app which only tells you the DISTANCE the bus is away.

      Many of the bus shelters in Chicago even have digital displays (with buttons for audio readouts for the hard-of-seeing) with the estimated arrival times for every line that stops there and will even show service changes.

      On board the buses, there are automated stop announcements with connecting rail and bus service information, and the buses even announce what route they are and where they’re headed when the doors open for people.

      Plus they’ve all been doing all this for YEARS.

      MTA’s bus system is seriously behind the times.

  2. Larry Littlefield says:

    It’s great this is finally coming, although they are leaving the luddites behind and non-tech savvy behind. You need a cellphone with texting to use it, and a smartphone to use it well.

    But I guess those over 35 have gotten along without it over the years, and installing video displays at every bus stop would be expensive. Unless some company would do it in exchange for the right to put video ads next to it.

    • My parents are in their 60s (though I’m sure they’re thrilled I’m spilling the beans), and they both have and use cell phones with texting capabilities. I think most New Yorkers do. It’s mostly a matter of educating people that this service is out there.

      • SEAN says:


        I need to take a slight issue with your above responce. Many smart phones aren’t well designed for those in the disabled community, so such apps end up being useless for a population who are transit dependent. That is unless the app is compatible with text to speach functionality AKA “Talkback.”

        Check your phones settings & see if your particular moddle has talkback or something similar. Find out if the app works with speach output.

        • I don’t see how my answer dovetails from what you’ve said. Larry was talking about older users of phones, and you’re talking about those who are disabled using phones. Two separate issues, no?

          • SEAN says:

            It’s great this is finally coming, although they are leaving the luddites behind and non-tech savvy behind. You need a cellphone with texting to use it, and a smartphone to use it well.

            Sorry Ben, I guess with my screen reader I comflated Larry’s comments above on being left behind with your responce to him.

            Again sorry, not easy when you are of low vision.

            • ajedrez says:

              Well, to be fair, most cell phones nowadays have texting capabilities (I have a regular flip phone with a pay-per-minute plan, and I use it occasionally). Not to mention that if somebody at your stop has a better cell phone, you can just ask them to check.

        • Tony says:

          The Bus Time mobile webpage renders plain text and should be compatible with a screen reader.
          I tried testing TalkBack but it made my phone an unusable mess. I quickly uninstalled it.

      • Justin Samuels says:

        Most New Yorkers have had smartphones for quite some time. Plenty of 60 year olds have smartphones. A number of people find them useful when traveling.

        And those in their 40s and 50s had smartphones for years. Before Android’s and IPhones plenty of people had Blackberries.

        • Larry Littlefield says:

          Truth be told, I don’t have cable either.

          Just part of the battle against the upsizing of “middle class” while downsizing the average wage that is bankrupting the country.

          • Bolwerk says:

            It’s worse/funnier than that. Between services like Amazon/Netflix and (for the more tech savvy) torrents and (for the oldtime tech savvy) Usenet, why the fuck does anybody need cable anymore? I mean, unless it’s how you get your Internet.

            There isn’t a war on good Internet service because cable companies are cutting-edge. It’s because their business model depends on shackling their customers. Likewise, content isn’t being marshalled to proprietary handheld devices and closed set-top boxes because these are cutting edge. This happens because rent can be extracted from them.

    • SEAN says:


      How has Ventra been working for you. I understand the CTA is getting the bugs out & is planning for moble phone payment in the near future.

      • Joe says:

        When I was in Chicago in January Ventra seemed to be working fine. My friend used his contactless AMEX card and I used a Ventra card with no issues. There were tons of staff people at major rail terminals helping people make the switch.

    • Bolwerk says:

      The sweet spot for good transit: “it comes when it comes” ought to work. BusTime is nice, but for the most part it should be an unnecessary perk because even buses and especially less frequent buses should adhere to schedules.

      (I suppose it’s acceptable to have variant frequencies in busy mixed traffic, if the variance is short. For instance, “buses come approximately every 7 minutes” is fine.)

  3. AlexB says:

    As a Queens resident, that’s great news!! Does it include all buses in Queens such as regular MTA Queens buses, MTA Bus Company Queens routes, and express buses too??

    • digamma says:

      You beat me to it. MTA Bus Co routes didn’t work on Google Maps for years after NYCT buses because they didn’t publish proper schedule information to developers. I am afraid the same thing will happen with BusTime.

    • T says:

      All of the routes, including the MTABC express and local routes, will be part of Bus Time.

    • Jim D. says:

      All of the Queens route will be there. BusTime for the Bronx includes the NYCT routes, the MTA Bus BxM express routes to Manhattan, and the Bx23 and Q50 local routes servicing Co-Op City and Flushing.

  4. alek says:

    Finally! About time! No more wasting time running and then the bus is not there.

    Plus I can shop in ease then get the bus on time.

  5. Frank B says:

    Per January 30th, 2014 MTA email:

    “Bus time is scheduled to go into effect in mid-February in Queens.”

    • Stephen - NYC says:

      Well, today is the halfway point of the month. Is it ready today? I don’t know since I don’t have a smart phone.

      • DF says:

        Whatever device you are browsing this site on should also allow you to browse bustime.mta.info.

        Spoiler alert: Queens buses are still not there.

  6. Roxie says:

    Can’t wait to be able to look on my phone and see that my Q65 is half an hour late and packed to the gills.

    • KaiB says:

      Hmmm, that’s an idea… “BusTime, now with BusCam” – tap into those new cameras and see how packed your bus is 🙂

      • ajedrez says:

        Actually, what could be done is to have a setting where the B/O presses a button to indicate that a bus is overcrowded. (Though if the bus is moderately crowded and suddenly gets hit with a huge crowd at a major stop, you won’t realize it until the last minute). Though if you’re saavy enough, you can probably figure it out that the first bus after a 30 minute gap will likely be packed.

    • Jeff says:

      So now you should hopefully be able to do something productive in that half hour instead of stand at your bus stop and wait.

  7. BruceNY says:

    Can’t wait to see if a Q32 is coming–and I ride this line exclusively within Manhattan!

    • Fiftyninth says:

      I also have been eagerly awaiting Bus Time on the Q32. A driver today on that route told me it was active already, but he was mistaken.

  8. JebO says:

    Technically, Bus Time isn’t an app. There’s no way to download Bus Time through the app store. You use it through a web browsing app or SMS text messaging app.

  9. BrooklynBus says:

    Ben, I don’t know where you are getting the idea that BusTime will result in loads of new riders. If a bus is 30 or 45 minutes away and you have no other alternative except taking a cab, you are still screwed. In fact knowing the next bus is far away may actually lower ridership not increase it.

    Only if Bus Trek gets going and is successful in resulting in more uniform headways by reducing bus bunching, will we see increases in ridership. Any information on how the pilot is progressing and when BusTrek will be available citywide?

    • ajedrez says:

      I’m not sure where, but I think I read that BusTrek is actually available in Brooklyn & Queens, but the system isn’t quite ready to be available to the public (as BusTime).

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