Archive for Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New system in Lawrence lets riders locate a bus via text message

January 22, 2014


If you want to know where your bus is these days, you can text it.

In recent weeks all city and Kansas University buses have been equipped with GPS devices to track their movements. Riders wanting to check on the location of a bus can use any phone with text messaging capabilities to find out. The technology is meant to minimize the wait time at bus stops for riders.

Similar systems have become common in transit systems around the country. "It's really becoming an expectation among people who are relying on public transit," said Danny Kaiser, assistant director of KU Parking and Transit.

"People don't want to just walk outside based on what the schedule book says," he said. "Now you don't have to stand outside as long in the cold."

The new system — dubbed "Where's My Bus?" — has been operable for a few weeks, but Kaiser said the KU and city transit systems wanted to work out bugs before releasing the technology for public use.

To find a bus, riders enter the bus stop number into a text message and send it to 785-312-2414. For a stop on multiple routes, riders must enter a comma after the stop number, followed by the route number. After sending the message riders should receive a text back with the wait time, based on the bus' current location.

Those wait times are estimates, which can become more or less accurate depending on the position of the bus. "The further a bus is away, the more opportunities for the bus to change its on-time performance," Kaiser said. That's why he and the Lawrence Transit System still advise riders to arrive at their stops at least a few minutes early.

The service requires no signing up and doesn't cost anything outside of charges for text messages in an individual's phone plan.

MV Transportation, which services the city and KU's transit systems and recently signed another five-year contract with each, owns the technology.


Brent Mowery 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm curious if the data is or will be made available for 3rd parties to create apps that might be more user friendly than having to text to get time estimates.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 4 months ago

Texting is so not user friendly. That is why people seldom do it.

Brent Mowery 4 years, 4 months ago

Ha maybe I had a poor choice of words.

In Austin, we have a service where you can text your bus stop number and receive the timetable for that stop. It's not real time, but same concept. It was great when I didn't have a smartphone, but if you weren't at the bus stop, finding out the bus stop number was a pain. It was better than nothing, but with a smart phone, it's much easier to get the same information faster with Google Maps because you can locate the stop on a map and the timetable is displayed much nicer. I haven't used the texting service since I got a smart phone; it's simply not as convenient.

Lots of cities make the GPS data available for developers to create apps. Of course, not everyone has smart phones so this texting service should still be applauded.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 4 months ago

We are lucky to have such a good bus system in Lawrence. People in large cities routinely use the bus and it is time that people here did likewise.

I want to give a shoutout to all the drivers, and supervisors, who work tirelessly to make sure we get where we are going and do it pleasantly even when passengers are disgruntled and angry.

Zach Davis 4 years, 4 months ago

Much of the API for a "3rd party app" has already been written with Google Trip Planner in Google maps if you were to place NFC tags or place 2d barcodes at each stop with the embedded URL to the said location it would make for a much easier user experience and probally be much more cost effective than using short messaging services. Although that would only be useful for smartphones

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