New York City’s public transit provider, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is set to pour millions of dollars into a high-tech project that will give New Yorkers a real-time view into the exact location of every bus in the city.
Last year, the transit authority announced BusTime, a pilot project on the B63 bus route running through Brooklyn. With a GPS tracking device on each bus, software and firmware developed by the open-source civic hacking shop OpenPlans, and a little marketing, the MTA’s New York City Transit division had created a way for riders to send a text message to a specific shortcode — using a code unique to the bus stop where they were standing — and get an automated response telling them exactly how far away the next bus was. At a cost of $265,000, the transit provider hadn’t found a way to fix the tendency for buses to get stacked one immediately behind the other or to get caught in traffic — but it was a start.
Today, the MTA announced that this project will immediately go live in the borough of Staten Island — which has buses and a light rail line but no subway — and will be in all five boroughs by 2013. BusTime data will be available through an API, a web dashboard, via SMS and by using QR codes.
The main lead on software will be OpenPlans, where the transportation group now has another sizeable contract that will reduce the extent to which the non-profit must lean on founder Mark Gorton’s largesse to keep operations afloat.
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