Real-Time Bus Info: There’s Always Next Year

bus_display.jpgTime and temp? Check. Next bus? Still unknown.
Photo: City Room.

On Wednesday, the Daily News reported that Dov Hikind, State Assemblyman representing Borough Park, called the MTA "the worst agency" in the run-up to a fare hike hearing in Brooklyn. Shame on Dov for not shouldering any responsibility for adequately funding our transit system. But there wouldn’t be such a receptive audience for his blame-deflecting ways if we had fewer stories like this: The MTA is aborting its latest plan for a real-time bus tracking system, reports NY1.

It’s the second time the MTA has thrown in the towel on a tracking
system. Back in 1996, a similar project failed, in part because
satellite signals were lost in the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan —
just one of many issues, the MTA says, that makes it difficult to
predict arrival times.

"It’s not just the urban canyons, but the schedules, the tight
schedules, the headways, the traffic. The operating environment I think
is the most challenging of any city’s," said Sassan Davoodi, Co-Project
Manager, NYC Transit.

Real-time information would be a godsend for bus riders whose trips are all too unpredictable. London has it. Hamburg has it. Paris and Bogota have it. Why has it taken the MTA twelve years and counting to deliver this technology to New York? In prepared testimony to the City Council [PDF], the MTA’s Robert Walsh described the timeline. The original 1996 project, which failed to produce "a reliable and working system," was not terminated until 2001. Four years later, in August 2005, the MTA awarded the second contract, which has now been scrapped.

On to the next candidate, Walsh said: "At this juncture, we are aggressively investigating and evaluating options that we believe may have the potential to meet the needs of our bus system."

Will the third time be the charm? After this latest setback, maybe the way to go here is to ditch the satellite GPS approach in favor of peer-to-peer networked sensors. That, or let the open source hive mind have a go at the problem.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Real-Time Bus Tracking Pilot Is Live on 34th Street [Updated]

|
DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announces the 34th Street pilot this morning. On the left are MTA Bus president Joseph Smith, Mayor Bloomberg, and acting MTA chief Helena Williams. Will the third time be the charm for reliable bus arrival displays in Manhattan? NYCDOT and the MTA announced today that, yes, they will deliver a tracking […]

Real-Time Bus Info Launches for All of Staten Island

|
Real-time bus information, previously only available on two routes, is now live for every bus in the borough of Staten Island. On an average weekday, that means 127,000 local and express bus riders will be able to find out exactly how far away their bus is. “This means more time at home with your family, […]

Track 34th Street Buses From Your Computer or Phone

|
Since last August, New Yorkers waiting for a bus on 34th Street have been able to check electronic signs at bus stops to find out how long it will take for the next oneto arrive. As of yesterday, they don’t even need to head to the bus stop. Riders can see the real-time location of […]

Walder: MTA Commitment to Open Transit Data Is For Real

|
At a conference at Google’s Chelsea office last night, MTA Chair Walder said all the right things about working collaboratively with software developers, confirming the agency’s dramatic turnaround on open transit data. After a longstanding policy of keeping a tight lid on route and schedule information, the MTA reversed course earlier this year and began […]