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Track 34th Street Buses From Your Computer or Phone

1:21 PM EDT on October 15, 2010

The location of M16 and M34 buses on 34th Street at 12:17 p.m. today. Image: MTA BusTime.

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 every M16 and M34 bus on their computer or smartphone or track the buses via text message.

That means someone can decide to finish her coffee in the Herald Square pedestrian plaza before heading to catch the bus, or decide it'll be faster to walk a couple of blocks than wait for the bus to arrive. Eliminating both the wait itself and the uncertainty about the wait will make riding the bus that much more pleasant and attractive.

The service, named BusTime, was developed by the firm Clever Devices, which also made a very similar website for the entire Chicago bus system. The cost of the Chicago contract came out to $24 million.

The MTA's goal is ultimately to provide real-time information to riders on the entire system, said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. For now, the MTA will be observing and evaluating the BusTime system, which is only a pilot, and will consider all options for how to expand real-time info.

The one-year tenure of Jay Walder as MTA chief has been marked by a noticeable improvement in the amount of information available to MTA riders. Around 100 countdown clocks have been installed in the subway system, according to Second Avenue Sagas, and now the MTA is beginning to install snazzy screens outside major stations to inform riders about delays and service changes before they pay a fare.

Walder has also opened up the MTA's transit data to software developers, allowing them to create their own tools for transit riders -- a decision that should accelerate the roll-out of real-time bus info from 34th Street to other routes. At a conference this May, Walder explained that the agency will be counting on developers to deliver bus tracking information to riders.

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