Peabody award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Brooklyn Gets Real-Time Bus Info
Tuesday, February 01, 2011 - 06:11 PM
You may know, that is, if you have a mobile phone and ride the B63, which rolls from Cobble Hill to Bay Ridge through Park Slope and Sunset Park.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced today that real-time data from GPS transmitters on B63 buses is available to the public. Riders can get the info in a few ways:
- On a Google map.
- Via a text version of the entire route, locating the buses with bold text
- You can get the info by texting a number that corresponds to your stop. A full list of stops and codes is here. For example, If you're at Fourth Avenue and Atlantic, you'd text "MTA 308536" to 41411 and you'll get latest info texted back. Eventually, the proper code will be posted at each stop.
- There will also be QR codes at every stop, so if your phone has a camera and a QR reader, you can shoot the pattern and jump online to the bus status for that location. No word yet from the MTA when those codes will be posted. As of today, there were blank boxes at many stops.
You won't see countdown signs like those new ones in the subway. At least not yet. But the MTA says it's developing ways for merchants on the route to have their own signs, kind of like what's been done in Boston.
It's also not really an app, and none of the methods above seem able to locate you with your GPS as you stand at a bus stop.
Massachusetts overcame those problems by making all the data available, in real time, to the private sector, and letting private software developers add the bells and whistles -- and as a result, all sorts of apps were created -- including one that will set off a alarm so you can leave your home or place of business when a bus approaches. Massachustts' philosophy is that they're a transit agency, not software developers -- a fact that the MTA has seemed to partially acknowledge by teaming up with the non-profit group Open Plans to develop "bustime."
UPDATED Feb. 2, 2011: The MTA has also made data for B63 available to the public in this way. Using an API, or application programming interface, you can expect independent programmers will build applications and services using the live information.
In Boston, to get such applications, bus riders need to pay a small fee, usually about $0.99 or $1.99. The current NYC texting and web info is free.
The B63 joins two earlier pilot projects on the M16 and M34 in Manhattan. Those projects were entirely paid for by the MTA. The Authority isn't immediately saying how much it has spent on the B63 pilot.
Oh yes. So far as a field test could tell, the information seems to be entirely accurate.