High tech for mass transit
The local bus company where I live has started providing a bunch of high-tech aids to riders.
The coolest one is sophisticated trip planning. In a web browser, enter your starting point, desired destination, and departure time. Get back a list of possible bus routes. You can get them sorted by fewest transfers, quickest arrival, or least walking.
The results turn out to be fascinating, even if you already know how to reach the destination, as it finds all sorts of serendipitous routes:
- There are two buses that go right past my office that will get me downtown with a transfer. This tool pointed out that I could walk three blocks and catch a bus that will take me right downtown.
- I go to a weekly meeting at a coffee shop that's only five blocks from a bus that takes me home. This tool pointed out a bus that will take me those five block, which has been nice to know on rainy days.
- I even found one place where I could get off a bus a few blocks from a major transfer point, walk a block, and then catch a bus that I would otherwise have just missed.
Besides the trip planner there are other new high-teach features:
Rerouting information by RSS feed. I get a short post every time there's a temporary change to a bus route due to something like construction or flooding. This is not only good for catching the bus, but is also handy if I'm driving or bicycling, because I'll face the same obstacles the bus faces.
Schedule updates by text message. Every bus stop has an ID. Send a text message with that ID, and receive back a text message with the next few buses coming to your stop. Very handy to make sure you didn't just miss your bus, and also useful when deciding whether to take one bus versus holding out for a more direct route.
Bus stop signage with current bus arrival info. LED signs at some bus stops show the next five or six buses and when they'll arrive.
Desktop widget with current buses for any stop. This is the same information as the LED signs, but available on your desktop. Handy for knowing when to head out to catch the bus.
Does your mass transit district offer high-tech features like these? I'd be interested to get an idea if this sort of thing is already common. If you know, post in the comments. If you don't know, it's probably worth your while to find out. Where I live we have a superior mass transit district, so maybe we're on the leading edge. I'd had no idea how good our bus service was, until I started riding it.
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