N.Y. MTA advances real-time bus info

Posted on March 21, 2014

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced all Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) buses in New York City now provide real-time tracking on smartphones, through text messages and online, enabling customers to track the next bus at more than 22,000 bus stops serving every route in New York City.

In the three months since the release of official apps for railroad customers, LIRR Train Time and Metro-North Train Time, approximately 120,000 people have downloaded the apps for iPhone and Android. Based on ridership statistics, about four out of 10 railroad passengers have downloaded the apps.

“Keeping customers informed is a key mission for the MTA, and MTA Bus Time is an excellent example of how providing information makes traveling better,” said MTA Chairman/CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “Just as subway countdown clocks make waiting for the next train easier, MTA Bus Time is a way our customers can ‘Know Before You Go.’”

The initiative required installing enhanced GPS hardware and cellular data transmission equipment on 5,700 buses, which send their location and route information to a central server every 30 seconds. The server uses sophisticated algorithms to determine how far each bus is from the next stop.

Customers can see this information by visiting MTA’s dedicated Web page or via smartphone, or by texting a unique code for each bus stop. Numerical codes and digital QR codes are posted on the Guide-A-Ride signs at bus stops in Staten Island, the Bronx and Manhattan, and will be posted in Brooklyn and Queens starting this week.

The system is used more than five million times per month. Customers access it 3.2 million times per month with mobile Web browsers, 1.7 million times per month by SMS text message and 550,000 times per month on desktop Web browsers.

The data generated by MTA Bus Time is also used to study how buses operate their routes, to improve their performance. In one recent example, data was used to study bus use and determine route changes for new service improvements coming to Coop City in the Bronx.

As part of the state’s unprecedented commitment to transparency, the MTA Bus Time data feed is also available at no charge to software developers, who can create their own interfaces and apps for it.

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