Home Buses Real-time bus tracking comes to Staten Island

Real-time bus tracking comes to Staten Island

by Benjamin Kabak

Staten Island express buses that venture into Manhattan remain on the BusTime tracking map.

Updated (2:15 p.m.): After years of stops and starts, some false hopes and finally a successful pilot program along Brooklyn’s 5th Avenue, New York City Transit has debuted BusTime, its real-time bus tracking program, throughout Staten Island. Although the debut is technically 11 days late, the devil is in the details. It’s taken the MTA far too many years to get this right, but the widespread rollout of such a tracking application should change the way New Yorkers relate to the bus system.

“Bus Time is going to transform the way that our 2.5 million bus riders use the bus system every day, and we’re thrilled to start here on Staten Island,” MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota said. “The MTA continues to bring new technology to our customers in ways that make our transit system better every day. With Bus Time you can get real-time information right on your cell phone or computer.”

The Staten Island implementation, which is officially live at MTA’s BusTime Page, is similar to the one in place along Brooklyn. Users can search for a bus route or intersection to see where buses are along the line. Additionally, riders may text a bus stop code or intersection to 511123 to receive tracking information, and soon, bus poles and shelters on Staten Island will come equipped with QR codes as well.

I’ve spent some time poking around with the Staten Island implementation, and I’m excited to see what this can do for bus ridership. It essentially takes the guesswork out of waiting as riders can now check to see where any bus is at any given time. Hopefully, mobile app developers will make good use of the plethora of data that will come out of BusTime as well. It should make it easier for potential riders to decide between a bus and a car ride.

There is also an intriguing citywide element to SI’s BusTime as well. As Chris O’Leary pointed out to me, the tracking for X1, an express bus that services Manhattan, works throughout the route. In other words, the MTA has developed a GPS-based bus tracking system that works in Manhattan. That had long been one of the supposed sticking points that held up such a tracking system.

The MTA hopes to roll out a city-wide system by the end of 2013. For more on the technology behind BusTime, check out my post on the topic from last February. “We’ve taken a new approach by using already existing off-the-shelf components and tailoring open standards and software,” Transit President Thomas Prendergast said. “The benefit of this in-house, open-design approach allows the MTA more freedom to purchase equipment from several different suppliers and adapt to new technology allowing us to roll out this important communications tool to our customers at a much lower cost.”

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Al D January 11, 2012 - 1:25 pm

Good news indeed. Out of curiousity, can they add this to SIRTOA? Then the entire island would be covered.

WilletsPoint-SheaStadium January 11, 2012 - 2:09 pm

That would be excellent. I know that GPS sometimes has trouble when you’re not on an actual street, and SIRTOA operates on an open cut between streets, so there may be some strange issues there.

In either case, this is excellent news. Traveling via Bus is practical! Can’t wait for this to hit Queens and Brooklyn.

Alex January 11, 2012 - 3:07 pm

Agreed! I live along the B63 in Brooklyn and it has definitely upped my usage of the route. Looking forward to it on the B67 and B69 in my nabe.

Andrew January 11, 2012 - 3:42 pm

GPS should be fine off streets. It gets confused on your car GPS because it has a map of the roads and is coded to assume you are one. In the case of SIRTOA, you would just have the gps mark its coordinates against a map of the railroad tracks. On the other hand, if there’s any major obstruction, that could prevent a signal.

Alon Levy January 11, 2012 - 4:28 pm

Railroads could also be tracked using track circuits and the signaling system.

al January 11, 2012 - 7:03 pm

Speaking of GPS, how does it manage to track buses running through the Brooklyn Battery and Lincoln Tunnels? There’s no GPS reception down there. Dead reckoning?

The map could use some work. Some routes are drawn with lines that don’t match the roads. The dialog box text sometimes get garbled and unreadable.

ajedrez January 11, 2012 - 11:11 pm

It doesn’t really matter because after the bus enters the tunnel, it’s not picking up any more passengers anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if the buses lost communication with the GPS sattelite.

Plus, it’s useful for seeing where the next couple of buses are. Chances are that if one bus is in the tunnel, the bus in front is out on the highway (which again, doesn’t matter because the buses are drop-off only in the outer boroughs going outbound and in Manhattan going inbound)

al January 12, 2012 - 2:15 am

Yup its dead reckoning. Apparently its also the fix for spotty GPS in the canyons of Midtown and Downtown. You can thank Columbia and CUNY for that one.

Video: Introducing SI BusTime :: Second Ave. Sagas January 13, 2012 - 12:24 pm

[…] bus tracking made its Staten Island debut on Wednesday, and this week, the MTA released video exploring the technology. Give a watch to find […]


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