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

jsk_bus_display.jpgDOT 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 system bus riders can count on.

Displays counting down the minutes until the next bus arrives have been installed at eight shelters serving the M34 and M16 routes on 34th Street. All eight are live and functional, according to a DOT spokesperson, so if you're taking a late lunch in Midtown, you can walk on over and check them out. You'll find them at the eastbound bus stops at Tenth, Ninth, Eighth and Park, and the westbound stops at First, Second, Third, and Lexington.

The displays are part of a pilot program provided at no cost by a Long Island company called Clever Devices. A report by Michael Grynbaum in the Times' City Room blog notes that Clever Devices installed a similar pilot for Chicago three years ago, a program called Bus Tracker that has since expanded to cover more all of the city's bus network. The Manhattan pilot uses GPS satellite tracking to determine the position of buses. Wait times based on those positions are then transmitted to LED displays mounted at the bus shelters.

Two prior contracts for real-time bus tracking have been scrapped by the MTA, most recently this January, because the systems could not deliver accurate information to riders. Long after cities like London, Paris and Bogota implemented similar technology, New York bus riders still have to guess whether the next bus will arrive when the posted schedule says it will. If this 34th Street pilot pans out, it will mean less exasperation for straphangers, and, perhaps, a little more credibility for the MTA.

We'll post some pics of the new displays soon. If you snap a picture of one, you can email it to tips@streetsblog.org or tag it "streetsblog" on Flickr.

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