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admin 09.08.2015

Technological advancements have given New York City straphangers some relief with the Real-Time Bus app, which allows users to see how far away their bus actually is. When Council Member Ben Kallos took office in 2014, he said slow or unreliable bus service was among his constituents' chief complaints. Also a software developer, Council Member Kallos decided to see if the MTA provided data so he could see exactly which buses were consistently late and by how much.
Nathan Johnson, a software developer, heeded the call at a May BetaNYC event called CityCamp NYC. The MTA, one of the few government agencies eager to give its data to civic technologists to build apps, agreed to help ease the process by releasing three months (August through October 2014) of archival Bus Time data for the latest Apps Quest competition. Johnson took that data and built a web page showing the percentage of early, on-time, and late buses for each route in the city. In addition, Kallos is asking the MTA for (handicap) accessibility information for their buses, bus stops, and subway stations in a machine-readable format, something Johnson hopes to incorporate into his app. Thus far, the MTA has not released the November or December archival Bus Time data in a raw format, although MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz said the data was available in the MTA committee book reports released monthly on its website.
Hidalgo, who is also a civic technologist, noted how helpful historical data can be in determining usage patterns, citing Citi Bike data as a prime example. Kallos, who only sent the letter to the MTA on Monday, says he has not gotten a response yet, but hopes the agency will consider his data request. Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. Improvements like real-time arrival displays led bus ridership to grow significantly during Jay Walder's tenure at Transport for London.
Road in the Bronx, with new routes planned and funded for First and Second Avenues in 2010.
Another means of speeding up bus service is moving toward an entire fleet of low-floor buses.
For instance, enforcement of bus stops and lanes has the most benefit for Manhattan buses (and to some extent select bus service – although that is a tiny share of total bus service).


To dramatically increase bus ridership, such as bringing it up to parity with subway ridership, I think the majority of the effort and resources have to go to the Boroughs. Realtime info would be great, and could even use text messages or something like twitter, as jass has suggested.
To really make this happen, though, I think it takes a radical re-design of existing bus routes. My greatest impression of London this last summer was not congestion pricing or ample free museums or cider on tap everywhere, but rather the free maps available in a rack at every tube station. Word On The Street “The entire area around the Botanical Garden is a pedestrian nightmare, and unfortunately, the institution has shown no interest in improving safety. More recently, a collection of city council members used discretionary funding toward more countdown clocks for additional bus stops, an especially useful tool for those without smartphones. Sure, it's good to know how long you will have to wait (and maybe have time to grab a cup of coffee nearby to warm up) - but is anyone actually doing anything about it?
Kallos' district spans much of the Upper East Side and includes bus-heavy 1st and 2nd Avenues. With that kind of solid data Kallos felt that he could then dive into the why, especially given his platform as an elected official. Kallos knew he had the skills to build a piece of software needed to turn the Bus Time data into archival data, but as has been the case since he took office a year ago, he realized his time for building software is limited. He began to work on a project that would take the real time bus data and turn it into archival data that he and others could analyze to find out exactly how often buses are early, on-time, or late.
So far the site shows September and October, but Johnson said in a phone interview he hopes to have an app complete to submit by the February 3 App Quest deadline.
On Monday he submitted a letter to the MTA requesting the release of archival bus data with greater frequency. He said more data would be released "once it's available," but did not give a specific time table. The City was able to look at peak times and stations for Citi Bike and make adjustments accordingly.


The MTA has struggled with GPS location for years, while similar technology has been adopted by transit systems around the world and in New York City taxis.
Do you take the subway, which may take a longer route but will require at most a 10 minute wait, or do you take the bus, which will get you there faster but maybe come in 1 or 30 minutes? While some high frequency routes remove that by having subway-like headways, all other lines need a countdown. That is why that information belongs on the street, at the subway entrances, instead of (or in addition to) on the subway platforms, where the subway commitment has already been made.
The high-floor articulated buses, which run on some of the city’s busiest routes, are slowed down by their especially slow loading process for the handicapped and elderly. The next installment is a brief summary of things Walder can do versus things he’d like to do, or should do.
Each station has a different map, a map just for that station, with less than a mile radius around it, highlighting the buses that pass within that range. The new council member began forwarding complaints to the MTA, but wasn't finding the relief he or his constituents were looking for. So he reached out to BetaNYC, a robust civic hacking community which for years has been taking city data and making useful apps and software. Kallos argues the archival bus time data could help policy makers help solve a critical transportation issue in the city.
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For the first time in decades, perhaps since WWII, there is a city administration and a transit boss who agree that buses are the fastest, cheapest way to expand and improve the transit system. A lot depends on who gets elected mayor and governor in the next year and whether NY State continues to face plunging tax revenue.



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