Riders: ‘Bus Time’ should time buses

Riders: ‘Bus Time’ should time buses
Photo by Ricky Cassiano

A new tracking system that lets digitally savvy riders locate a bus so they’ll have a better idea when it will get to their stop would be better if it actually let them know what time the bus will arrive, say users of the system.

The MTA has been testing “MTA Bus Time” since February on the B63 bus, which runs from Downtown to Bay Ridge, and riders we talked with said they liked knowing a bus was on the way, but would rather find out when the bus was going to arrive in real time — instead of in blocks or miles, as the system does now.

“I have no concept of how long it takes a bus to travel 2.8 miles,” said Bari Saltman, of Park Slope, who learned the whereabouts of the nearest bus headed in his direction by texting a number with his Smartphone. “That’s so not helpful.”

The online service, accessible by a mobile phone, computer, or Blackberry, uses GPS technology and wireless communications to get users the location of a bus before, or once they get to, a stop, giving them a better idea of when the bus will actually arrive, and has been touted by the MTA as the next big thing in bus transit.

“There are few things as frustrating as having to guess when the next bus is going to show up at your stop,” said NYC Transit president Thomas Prendergast in a statement announcing the technology. “With Bus Time, next bus arrival times are right in your hands.”

Except Bus Time does not actually give arrival times, disappointing some users.

“It’s cool that the buses are using the technology, but it needs work,” said Zoe Singer, of Park Slope, who was frustrated and walked away after waiting too long for the B63 on Court Street and Atlantic Avenue. “I don’t care if its 0.4 miles. It would be more helpful if they gave you an estimated time of arrival.”

A spokesperson for the MTA said there are no plans for Bus Time to give bus tracking by time.

“The decision was to do it by stops,” Ortiz said. “This has been incredibly useful to customers along that route.”

And for some Brooklynites, finding the location of the bus is good enough.

“I used it and it works,” said Victoria Rodriguez, of Park Slope. “Now I know whether to wait for a bus or not.”

A bus driver who used the system on her day off agreed.

“I scanned the bar code,” the driver told us. “If it’s dirty it won’t work the correct way, but if it’s not it does, it’s pretty good.”