Chicago’s Bus Tracker: Taking the Guesswork Out of Waiting for the Bus
One of the encouraging trends for American transit riders, in an otherwise bleak landscape of service cuts and fare hikes, is the growing number of agencies experimenting with ways to bring better information to their customers. Last summer Streetfilms explored how open transit data is helping to make riding the bus or the train more convenient in several cities.
Today's follow-up looks at how better transit data is benefiting riders in Chicago. The Chicago Transit Authority's "Bus Tracker" system is taking the mystery out of waiting for the bus, providing close-to-real-time information about when the next bus is coming. Riders can access this information online, on their mobile devices, and, in the Wicker Park-Bucktown district, in several cafes and shops.
Joe Iacobucci: [00:04] Bus tracker is a real time arrival information for all of our buses at all of our stops in the system. It allows customers to know exactly when the bus is going to arrive.
Tony Coppoletta: [00:13] Each bus has special hardware on it that gets the bus’s location using a GPS and other data that’s available and transmits it back to our server so we can show where our buses are.
Joe Iacobucci: [00:24] The Wicker Park Bucktown SSA came to us with the interest of putting screens within stores in the district.
Adam Burck: [00:31] When the CTA a few years ago launched the bus tracker programme, we wanted to be able to get it out into the community so that people could make use of the data that didn’t have smartphones.
Tony Coppoletta: [00:42] What I’m standing in front of right now is called the Do It Yourself Bus Tracker Display. And so this here is a screen that we’ve set up in the lobby of CTA Headquarters that displays arrival times for buses at nearby stops. It also gives weather information, time and temperature. And so we also have for free on the website, any business can set this up with just as much as a simple netbook computer and a monitor, a slideshow that’s custom designed for their business.
Adam Burck: [01:09] There in different businesses, examples are Red Hen Bakery on Milwaukee just north of North Avenue, Café De Luca. There are ten different sites, including this. And now we’re looking at actually adding them to the CTA stations.
Joe Iacobucci: [01:25] Which is a benefit for the Chamber because they were able to reduce congestion while displaying community events and the things that help the district out. For the business it gives a more of a connection with their customers who are stopping in for a cup of coffee or bagel on their way to work, and arming them with the information for Bus Tracker.
Speaker: [01:46] I’m at W Grocer at Wicker Park, Chicago, Illinois and we’ve got a bus tracker system up here at the front counter so that customers can come in and take a look, see when the buses are coming in. It’s very helpful, it lets people know when the buses will be here. Very helpful, especially in winter time when it’s so cold, people can stop in and know how much longer they have to wait for the bus.
Jamie Simon: [02:06] The idea is that if you’re passing by a café and you know they have the sign, you might go in and look and see you have five or ten minutes to wait and maybe you would make a purchase or, you know, if you have fifteen minutes, maybe you would browse at some books, make it a more seamless experience, and also it encourage people to take transit. There is high transit ridership in the neighbourhood, but I think anything you can do to facilitate that experience and take the mystery out of riding the bus is really helpful for people.
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