Bus GPS Tracking Hits Boston

February 15, 2010

One of the very powerful things that governments can do to improve public transportation is make it more accessible and usable by the public. One great way to do this is to install GPS tracking devices on public transit systems and let users access the information online or from their mobile phone. Bus GPS tracking makes a lot of sense and can really make things easier for everyone who wants to use public transportation to save money and the environment.

Recently, Boston implemented a tracking system for a few lines in their bus system and the folks over at Boston.com decided that they wanted to give it a go around and see if the system worked. According to their results, they got mixed results.

Here is what they said:

First, the automated voice asked me to punch in my bus stop number. This will be a problem for most passengers because the bus stop number is not listed anywhere at the bus stop. Not on the shelter, not on the pole where the schedule is posted. You need to find it online, which I had luckily done in advance.

The voice on the other end of the line told me my bus would arrive in nine minutes. And it was right. (Actually two buses came at that time.)

I stayed at the bus stop, and tried T-Tracker again. The second time, T-Tracker said my bus would arrive in nine minutes, at 1:56 p.m. As I waited, I got impatient, so I called again. This time, it said my bus would actually arrive at 2:01, about five minutes later. I’m guessing my bus got stuck in traffic or the driver took a quick break. The second bus arrived at 2:01.

According to the same article, the phone updates for the bus GPS tracker gets about about 35 callers a day while the online version gets around 1,670 visitors per day. To this writer, that seems like a wild success.

The system is still in its early testing stages, but it looks promising. If costs can be contained and use can increase then Boston just might get some bus tracking from T-Tracker.

Here is a video from the folks over at Boston.com when they tried to use this new system:

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