Case Study

Metropolitan Transit Authority

MTA’s Bus Time lets commuters in New York text in to find the location of the next bus in real time. Over 13 million messages were received in 2013.

Challenge

How do you inform millions of daily bus riders of the location of the next bus?

Over 2.6 million customers ride MTA buses on 300 routes in New York City every day. Although bus schedules are posted online and at bus stops, traffic and weather conditions constantly affect actual arrival times. New Yorkers are often left standing at bus stops wondering when the next bus will come and whether they need to adjust their travel plans to meet their schedules. In addition, many commuters do not have smartphones or mobile data capabilities to access the Internet for updated information on transit arrival times.

Solution

Bus Time allows commuters to text in to find the location of the nearest bus.

The MTA launched Bus Time, a revolutionary text messaging service that provides commuters with real-time information on the location of the nearest bus using automated text messages. Each bus is equipped with GPS technology to track its location around the city. Users can text in either a unique bus stop code or the cross streets of an intersection to find the location and direction of the closest bus. The ability to receive updated information lets bus riders plan their time more effectively, spending less time outside at bus stops and more time at the office or with family and friends.

“We are delighted by the rapid growth of the use of Bus Time. This is a service that can really make it easier to ride the bus, so it’s not a surprise that it’s proven to be so popular.”
-Joseph J. Lhota, MTA Chairman

Results

In 2013, over 13 million text message requests were sent to the Bus Time system.

Nearly a quarter of daily bus riders were using the service within six months of the initial launch. Over 33,000 people were texting an average of 8 times per week on Staten Island alone. There were 15 times more text message requests than mobile web requests and twice as many text message requests as desktop web requests.

Bus Time service has recently expanded to over 15,000 bus stops on 5,500 buses in all five boroughs of New York City. By letting anybody with a cell phone text in to find when the next bus is coming, commuters will be more likely to use MTA buses and decrease congestion. Bus Time is making public transportation in New York City more accessible and reliable for everyone.

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