Virtual Pocket ‘Countdown Clock’ for Buses Provide Location Information Based on Time Prediction to Stop

MTA New York City Transit’s popular MTA Bus Time™ service now offers a new feature that provides time-based bus arrival estimates in addition to distance-based information at any given stop citywide, allowing customers to see when their bus will arrive and to help them plan their trips more efficiently.

MTA Bus Time™, New York City Transit’s live bus tracking service, is available as a desktop service on the MTA website and as a free downloadable app for iOS and Android smartphones that was launched in June. As part of that launch, the MTA significantly improved the service by offering user-friendly features such as a map-based street grid view that shows buses moving in real time, automatic displays of nearby bus routes, and time-based arrival estimates that were available to Bronx bus routes only.

The citywide rollout of the time-based bus arrival estimates feature comes after four months of positive feedback from customers who had been using it for Bronx routes. The MTA had designed the time-based estimates feature in house, with the goal of offering the data to bus routes system-wide. The real-time data also will be made available to third-party developers.

“It’s like having a countdown clock for your bus in your pocket. We’re excited to expand the time-based predictions on MTA Bus Time to all the remaining boroughs of the city,” said Darryl Irick, President of MTA Bus and Senior Vice President, NYC Transit Department of Buses. “This feature was available to Bronx-based customers for the last four months and we received lots of positive feedback and requests for expansion, and we are happy to oblige.”

The new feature allows customers to make better informed decisions about their travel times and itineraries by giving them a time-based estimate of a bus’s arrival at a queried stop. Previously, MTA Bus Time™ users tracked buses based on distance between a queried bus and the customer’s current location, either as a number of stops away or a distance in miles. Time-based estimates take into consideration multiple factors that can affect the arrival time of a bus, such as its schedule, historical travel times over the same distance in the month prior, and current traffic conditions. If those conditions change, MTA Bus Time™ automatically updates the prediction.

The MTA Bus Time™ service uses location data provided by an enhanced global positioning device mounted inside each bus. That information is transmitted wirelessly to a MTA Bus Time™ server using onboard cellular equipment. The server integrates bus location data with bus route info, schedules and map files to output the information received by bus customers.

In addition to the app, MTA Bus Time™ is available on any web-enabled smartphone or desktop computer at bustime.mta.info; on a cell phone through text messaging 511123 with a bus route code or intersection information; or on a smartphone with a QR code reader by scanning the bus stop’s QR code.