MTA BusTime: Slapping GPS on public transportation and letting smartphone users see where their bus is

One of the perks of living in New York City is no longer needing to own a car. Parking, driving, honking, accidents, traffic jams, all those problems disappear, but you’re putting yourself in the hands of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). That may or may not be a good thing, especially with the freakishly severe winter that just struck the East Coast. When you’re out there, waiting for your bus, shivering in your boots, wouldn’t it be more convenient to know where exactly your bus is and how long it’ll be until it shows up at the stop so you could … I don’t know, go grab a bagel and coffee and wait somewhere warm? That’s the goal of “MTA BusTime“, a trial that’s being run on the B63 bus route which will enable smartphone users to scan a QR code that’ll show them where their bus is and how much longer they’ll have to freeze their asses off.

Even people who don’t own smartphones can benefit, all they have to do is send an SMS to a special number that’s going to be printed on each and every bus stop. Better yet, the MTA is working with local businesses so they can install LCD displays so people can have a quick glance at where everything is. If the trial proves successful, then this sort of technology will be installed along more routes.

We’ve got something exactly like this in Helsinki, except it’s on all the trams. We actually need it since it can sometimes be up to a 10 minute wait for the next tram, and when it’s – 20 outside you don’t want to be out one second longer than you have to. More cities should use similar systems since it would actually encourage the public to use alternate means of transport.

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  • Dude

    Yeah, we’ve had GPS on our buses for over a year now in Gainesville, Florida. The bus system even came out with an iPhone app to track buses. The only thing missiing is a measure of how full a bus is.

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