"Where's my bus?" is now a question you can answer yourself in Manhattan, as the MTA Monday introduced real-time tracking via the Internet of the borough's fleet.
The nearly 490,000 people who use Manhattan buses on an average weekday can now keep tabs on them by using MTA Bus Time, a pilot program that started on the B63 route in Brooklyn and was introduced to Staten Island and Bronx buses last year. It is available at bustime.mta.info.
"A customer waiting for the bus can find out where their bus is at that precise moment," said Tony Laidig, the project's lead engineer.
The service locates a bus and shows the number of stops until it reaches a rider. The expansion now covers all of Manhattan's 36 routes and 1,800 bus stops; M34 buses had been part of the Bus Time pilot. The latest GPS technology has been installed on 2,852 buses in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx, at a cost of about $5,000 per bus. The MTA says every New York City bus will be trackable within six months.
"We have gone from 30 buses to just under a thousand buses to 2,000 buses, and now we are currently on 3,000 buses," Laidig said. "The installation for Brooklyn and Queens is happening constantly at this moment."
While real-time bus tracking may sound like a technological luxury, the MTA will use the data to prevent bunching along routes, Sean Fitzpatrick, director of bus technology deployment at the MTA, said. He said the MTA is developing a way to incorporate the information into its on-time performance data.
The website is designed for smartphone or computer viewing; by text message; and by scanning a QR code on schedules posted at bus stops, although some need updates because of superstorm Sandy and winter storms.
Laidig said the pilot routes using Bus Time had a "very small but statistically significant increase" in ridership, though he said data from the Bronx and Manhattan buses will determine whether there is a "noticeable bump." An MTA spokesman said that there was an increase on the M34 route amid service improvements and that Staten Island express buses seemed to attract more riders after Bus Time was installed.
Riders welcomed the ability to keep tabs on buses.
Vincent Hodge, a 51-year-old Mott Haven resident, prefers a car to a bus while in the Bronx, but said he would use Bus Time in Manhattan, where he works as a court messenger. "Sometimes I walk to the next stop, waiting for the bus. But before I get to the next stop, the bus flies by," Hodge said.