It's been over a year since the MTA finished its city-wide rollout of MTA Bus Time—a real-time service that tracks busses using GPS. And this week, the MTA announced that the tracker, which until now was only accessible through a web browser, is now available as a smartphone app.
“Technology is changing quickly and... New York is a very tech-savvy and fast-paced city, so it is important for us to have a smartphone app that addresses what our bus customers requested,” said MTA President Carmen Bianco in a statement. Granted, they're not the first ones to get into the bus-timing app game.
Until now, foot-tapping New Yorkers had three options for finding out how much longer they'd be waiting in the beating sun/frigid cold: Open the Bus Time website in a smartphone browser; text a cross street to 511123 to get a list of bus stops and, from there, one's bus stop and direction of choice; scan the bus stop's designated QR code.
We downloaded the app ourselves, and found that it reminded us of Uber a little bit, since a "map-based street grid view" shows buses moving along their routes in real time. Here's an example:
As any self-respecting Big Brother app should, Bus Time keeps track of the routes you travel most frequently, and stacks them neatly at the bottom of the screen under "Your Recent Searches."
Older versions of Bus Time estimated arrival based off of the user's distance from the next arriving bus, either by number of miles, or number of stops. For example, a bus was always "one stop away" and never "three minutes away."
But a special version of the new app, which is rolling out a trial in the Bronx tomorrow, is more refined. According to official MTA documents, it factors in your bus's "historical travel times over the same distance in the month prior, and current traffic conditions." That way, it will tell you (or the MTA is hoping that it will accurately tell you) exactly how many minutes you'll be waiting. Think of it as the countdown clock of the bus shelter.
As for when the other boroughs will get time estimates, the MTA can't say just yet. A spokeswoman told us this afternoon, "A lot of it will depend on feedback we get from users."