Santa Monica, Calif.’s Big Blue Bus is beginning a three-month pilot of historical crowding information for all lines — available in its official app, Transit.
The feature uses recent passenger count data to share crowding predictions for buses, which will help riders make informed decisions about trip planning and physical distancing. Crowding predictions are calculated by Transit’s engineers using regularly updated ridership trend data from Big Blue Bus. Previously available on a few select buses, historical crowding predictions are now available for all Big Blue Bus lines in this pilot.
Thousands of Big Blue Bus riders regularly use Transit to plan their trips. Several global studies have found that when masks are mandatory, as they are for Big Blue Bus and all transit services nationwide, riding public transit carries a relatively low risk for COVID-19 transmission. That risk is further reduced when physical distancing between riders is possible.
Big Blue Bus is committed to providing an informative and easy-to-use service, and its partnership with Transit provides passengers with the tools they need to practice safe physical distancing.
When users tap their line in Transit, they see a map showing the real-time locations of buses along their route. Now, the vehicle icon shows not just the last update of the vehicle's location, but also its predicted crowding level. Big Blue Bus regularly shares stop-by-stop ridership stats with Transit, whose team processes the data to make predictions in the app showing each vehicle’s capacity level over the course of its route, depending on the time of day.
Riders also have the ability to report the current passenger bus loads for their trip in real time, providing another useful data set for sharing crowding information. Updates from riders using the “GO” step-by-step navigator appear for 10 minutes in the app and temporarily replace crowding predictions based on ridership trends. These crowdsourced reports, when taken together, are used to validate Transit’s capacity predictions based on automated passenger counter (APC) data from Big Blue Bus.
Big Blue Bus is among the first of Transit’s 75 agency partners to integrate data-driven crowding predictions. The feature was originally developed in partnership with LA Metro, which launched the feature with Transit in August 2020. For Big Blue Bus, four of every five capacity predictions in Transit have proven accurate when compared with actual ridership data.