Finishing up a project at work. Grabbing coffee. Charging a cell phone. Staying warm for a few extra minutes at home. These are some things MBTA bus passengers may often forgo to make sure they don't miss their buses. But those inconveniences could soon become a thing of the past thanks to a new T initiative that makes public real-time bus data.
Over the weekend, the T released tracking data on five key bus routes for developers to create Web and smartphone applications that riders can use to learn when their next buses are expected to arrive. The routes chosen include the 39, 111, 114, 116 and 117, and over the next year officials will monitor the program pilot and feedback from developers and riders. The goal is to ultimately make that information available for all T bus lines.
Some apps already exist that provide MBTA schedules, but ones that incorporate real-time information are the wave of the future, according to Chris Dempsey, a MassDOT innovation and development official.
"That is the endgame: 'Where is my bus right now?' That's what folks want to know," Dempsey said.
Given the MBTA's financial limitations, transportation officials say this is a low-cost way to improve service by letting the public generate and improve on apps they themselves will use. Dempsey said it could also boost bus ridership.
"People might be more willing to wait for a bus if they know it's two or four minutes away," he said.