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BrooklynBus

MTA Shows its Bias Against Buses Again

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lol... I think you're wrongly criticizing the (MTA) on this one. They tried numerous times with outside contractors to get a GPS system up and working and it was the outside contractors that couldn't get the job done, so they decided to develop a GPS system in house. That would explain to some degree why it is limited, but on the same token, I think most riders are smart enough to get a feel for how traffic is and how often it takes their buses to get from point A to point B. Granted the traffic can change from one day to the next but for the most part if you follow a routine on a daily basis you tend to get a feel for these things. While I will agree that the (MTA) could use Bus Time to better control bunching, I think you have to look at it from both sides of the fence. If you go too crazy with it, then you have B/Os that will become stressed out and worried about everything but driving and adhering to their schedule. I don't want B/Os driving like old men trying to adhere to the schedule to the second. As long as the bus isn't coming early, if the bus is running late I can live with that because I can track the bus and know that it's running late and thus this allows me to either wait where ever I'm at inside until the bus is coming or make arrangements to take another route. The notion of the nanny state IMO isn't that big of a deal because I think B/Os will do their job since they know they are being tracked. Now I do see instances at least on Staten Island where buses are held here and there to avoid bus bunching, but I think the attitude is hey, the passengers can see where their buses are and they can plan accordingly and on Staten Island, there are indeed some bus routes that have improved significantly since Bus Time has been put in place (i.e. X10). For years it was always a guessing game with that bus as to if it came 10 minutes early or if it was going to be 20 minutes late.

 

Some passengers believe it or not help out with the bus bunching in some instances by seeing that there is a bus directly behind another bus that is approaching so they balance out the loading in some cases. The key IMO for Bus Time to be successful is for the tracking device to be reliable, which of late has been a problem. Too many buses missing on Bus Time. I'm getting missing buses several times a week during my trips and if you're going to advertise a service, then make sure that it works!!

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8
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While I do realize that not everyone has a smartphone or the ability to access BusTime on a daily basis, I support the (MTA)'s decision to keep BusTime and drop the shelter clocks because it will save money and in my opinion, still offer it's purpose. BusTime is more accurate too.

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While I do realize that not everyone has a smartphone or the ability to access BusTime on a daily basis, I support the (MTA)'s decision to keep BusTime and drop the shelter clocks because it will save money and in my opinion, still offer it's purpose. BusTime is more accurate too.

 

That's exactly why they dropped it from the shelters and I have to say that Bus Time is far more accurate than the system at the bus shelter. I think I became far more irritated seeing that the wait time would go from 5 minutes to 10 minutes and up and down which was simply due to traffic which IMO can be a beast to predict here in the city. I witnessed this first hand years ago when the program started on the then M16 and M34. With Bus Time if you use the desktop version on your phone and zoom in on the bus you can literally see the exact street that your bus is on, which should give you a pretty good idea as to how long it should take for your bus to arrive if you pay attention to the traffic conditions that occur on a daily basis.

 

Bus Time is not at all complicated. Folks use their phones every day for everything, so this is not that big of a deal.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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lol... I think you're wrongly criticizing the (MTA) on this one. They tried numerous times with outside contractors to get a GPS system up and working and it was the outside contractors that couldn't get the job done, so they decided to develop a GPS system in house. That would explain to some degree why it is limited, but on the same token, I think most riders are smart enough to get a feel for how traffic is and how often it takes their buses to get from point A to point B. Granted the traffic can change from one day to the next but for the most part if you follow a routine on a daily basis you tend to get a feel for these things. While I will agree that the (MTA) could use Bus Time to better control bunching, I think you have to look at it from both sides of the fence. If you go too crazy with it, then you have B/Os that will become stressed out and worried about everything but driving and adhering to their schedule. I don't want B/Os driving like old men trying to adhere to the schedule to the second. As long as the bus isn't coming early, if the bus is running late I can live with that because I can track the bus and know that it's running late and thus this allows me to either wait where ever I'm at inside until the bus is coming or make arrangements to take another route. The notion of the nanny state IMO isn't that big of a deal because I think B/Os will do their job since they know they are being tracked. Now I do see instances at least on Staten Island where buses are held here and there to avoid bus bunching, but I think the attitude is hey, the passengers can see where their buses are and they can plan accordingly and on Staten Island, there are indeed some bus routes that have improved significantly since Bus Time has been put in place (i.e. X10). For years it was always a guessing game with that bus as to if it came 10 minutes early or if it was going to be 20 minutes late.

 

Some passengers believe it or not help out with the bus bunching in some instances by seeing that there is a bus directly behind another bus that is approaching so they balance out the loading in some cases. The key IMO for Bus Time to be successful is for the tracking device to be reliable, which of late has been a problem. Too many buses missing on Bus Time. I'm getting missing buses several times a week during my trips and if you're going to advertise a service, then make sure that it works!!

 

 

I agree with a few points such as riders helping out with bunching which I have known for many years. But I do not understand much of what you are saying. Even if the GPS System was developed in house, they still could get someone from the outside to develop algorithms to convert distance to time. Perhaps regular riders have some idea of converting distance to time, but what about the occasional rider or tourist?

They wouldn't have that ability.

 

I have no idea what you mean about bus drivers becoming stressed out. They are not supposed to be early under any circumstances, and if they are late, arrival times at bus stops won't make any difference anyway unless it causes them to skip more stops and bypass more passengers which they are not supposed to do unless instructed by a dispatcher.

 

I also do not see how missing buses relates to posting estimated arrival times at bus shelters. And perhaps the MTA has limited responsibility regarding the failure of its contractors, but they certainly do deserve criticism for promising to solve bus bunching once they know they location of the buses, and making these promises for over 35 years, and we still do not have this capability.

Edited by BrooklynBus

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That's exactly why they dropped it from the shelters and I have to say that Bus Time is far more accurate than the system at the bus shelter. I think I became far more irritated seeing that the wait time would go from 5 minutes to 10 minutes and up and down which was simply due to traffic which IMO can be a beast to predict here in the city. I witnessed this first hand years ago when the program started on the then M16 and M34. With Bus Time if you use the desktop version on your phone and zoom in on the bus you can literally see the exact street that your bus is on, which should give you a pretty good idea as to how long it should take for your bus to arrive if you pay attention to the traffic conditions that occur on a daily basis.

 

Bus Time is not at all complicated. Folks use their phones every day for everything, so this is not that big of a deal.

 

 

No one would support inaccurate bus times at shelters that kept changing. The question is why should that be the case and why could it not have been done correctly?

 

I do not see how you can say it's easy for a bus rider to predict the time once he knows the street the bus is on and also say that its not possible for a computer to accurately predict it because of unpredictable traffic conditions. You are talking out of both sides of your mouth. If the bus rider can predict the time you should be able to write an algorithm for the computer to accurately predict it also. And how come it can be done in Chicago?

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No one would support inaccurate bus times at shelters that kept changing. The question is why should that be the case and why could it not have been done correctly?

 

I do not see how you can say it's easy for a bus rider to predict the time once he knows the street the bus is on and also say that its not possible for a computer to accurately predict it because of unpredictable traffic conditions. You are talking out of both sides of your mouth. If the bus rider can predict the time you should be able to write an algorithm for the computer to accurately predict it also. And how come it can be done in Chicago?

 

What I mean is that folks can get a feel as to when their bus will come (roughly). I know for example Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, barring traffic, bad weather and street closures that my bus will generally come around the same time, but if there is traffic or other issues at play, it may take longer, so I know when I am tracking whatever bus I'm taking that I should probably start getting ready to head out when the bus gets to a certain point. I know that the bus is due at the stop at a certain time and if it looks like the bus is moving okay then that indicates to me that traffic is moving okay. However if the bus is moving slowly (in other words staying in the same spot on Bus Time) then I know that I may have to wait a bit when I get to the bus stop.

 

In other words it's a matter of routine more than anything and that can vary depending on the driver you get, how crowded the bus is, the time, and so on.

 

As for why the system can't do it yet it's a good question, but quite frankly, I think the key thing here is to look at this as a building process. Bus Time is still quite new and it is something that they are looking to us passengers to give them feedback on. I talk with the Bus Time team regularly and they are eager to improve the program and are very appreciative of the feedback that I give them. Seeing that this is an in house creation, ideally this program should be something created which the (MTA) can make better over time, but patience is the key thing here. There is no question that traffic here is like no other place in the world and so trying to come up with a system that can really countdown how long it will take for the bus to come is quite difficult. It exists in the subways, but that environment is far more controlled in terms of outside factors being less of an issue.

 

I actually prefer knowing where the bus is as opposed to being told how long it will take the bus to reach me. As I stated previously, I think folks become more impatient when they are told said bus will arrive in 5 minutes and then it is still delayed. I think a bigger question is why couldn't any of the outside contractors that the (MTA) hired come up with something? The fact that they had to take this in house shows what a challenge this was and so I'm just glad that we have something. It shows that the (MTA) is at least making an effort towards accountability when it comes to buses.

 

For the people that are being anal about wanting the program to be accurate down to the second they will never be satisfied with it. Bus Time is a tool to guide passengers on where their bus is and that's how it should be used. The idea is to take the guessing game out of if the bus has come or not. As long as I know the bus is coming or is near by that's good enough for me. It's certainly better than waiting and hoping.

 

P.S. On average when I can track my bus, my wait time is no more than 5 minutes which is pretty damn good.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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That's exactly why they dropped it from the shelters and I have to say that Bus Time is far more accurate than the system at the bus shelter. I think I became far more irritated seeing that the wait time would go from 5 minutes to 10 minutes and up and down which was simply due to traffic which IMO can be a beast to predict here in the city. I witnessed this first hand years ago when the program started on the then M16 and M34. With Bus Time if you use the desktop version on your phone and zoom in on the bus you can literally see the exact street that your bus is on, which should give you a pretty good idea as to how long it should take for your bus to arrive if you pay attention to the traffic conditions that occur on a daily basis.

 

Bus Time is not at all complicated. Folks use their phones every day for everything, so this is not that big of a deal.

 

I use an app called "Bus New York City" from the iPhone App Store.
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I use an app called "Bus New York City" from the iPhone App Store.

 

Unless that app allows you to see the Bus Time as if you were viewing it on your desktop I wouldn't bother. Besides I try to avoid apps anyway where possible to keep my phone running smoother. I do have a few apps but they're not for transit.

----

I agree with a few points such as riders helping out with bunching which I have known for many years. But I do not understand much of what you are saying. Even if the GPS System was developed in house, they still could get someone from the outside to develop algorithms to convert distance to time. Perhaps regular riders have some idea of converting distance to time, but what about the occasional rider or tourist?

They've tried using outside contractors on a number of occasions and it didn't work so the idea with this was to create something that would be efficient for riders and cost effective.

 

I have no idea what you mean about bus drivers becoming stressed out. They are not supposed to be early under any circumstances, and if they are late, arrival times at bus stops won't make any difference anyway unless it causes them to skip more stops and bypass more passengers which they are not supposed to do unless instructed by a dispatcher.

What I mean is obviously B/Os aren't supposed to be early but my point was that the (MTA) could become quite anal with punctuality under these circumstances since they can now track buses on numerous routes. In a few instances B/Os have been a bit early by a few minutes. How strict do you become with that policy?? To me anything over 5 minutes is too early.

 

I also do not see how missing buses relates to posting estimated arrival times at bus shelters. And perhaps the MTA has limited responsibility regarding the failure of its contractors, but they certainly do deserve criticism for promising to solve bus bunching once they know they location of the buses, and making these promises for over 35 years, and we still do not have this capability.

 

Buses missing is a Bus Time issue and not a bus shelter issue. What I was referring to was buses missing from Bus Time, but those buses do show up as scheduled. That's my main gripe with Bus Time. Too many buses of late have not been on Bus Time either due to equipment failure, server issues or because the hardware hasn't been installed yet on the bus, but as I said before that's something they are ironing out and get behind on due to the Hurricane.

 

As for bus bunching you're right about that but I really don't mind it so much as long as I know where my bus is. I give myself extra time in case there are issues so if the bus is late I can tolerate it, because I can simply keep doing whatever I'm doing inside and then meet the bus when it does show up.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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I'd just like to point out one thing about the traffic: Doesn't Google Maps have some sort of traffic indicator? I assume they have some way of tracking the traffic in real-time. Maybe the MTA could somehow partner with them (I mean, they already partnered with them on Google Transit), and factor the traffic conditions in to estimate the time before the bus arrives at a certain stop. Of course, there's still the issue of buses having different loads, and different driving habits of the B/Os, and the presence of wheelchair passengers, but at least you can get a pretty good idea of when the bus will arrive, because one major issue is out of the equation.

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I actually prefer knowing where the bus is as opposed to being told how long it will take the bus to reach me.

 

 

 

If you look at the Chicago picture in the article, it looks like their system does both. It tells you what stop the bus is at and the estimated time of arrival until your stop so an astute rider such as yourself who is very familiar with traffic conditions would know if the estimate is wrong and by approximately how much.

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If you look at the Chicago picture in the article, it looks like their system does both. It tells you what stop the bus is at and the estimated time of arrival until your stop so an astute rider such as yourself who is very familiar with traffic conditions would know if the estimate is wrong and by approximately how much.

 

Yeah when I lived in Italy, I went up to Bologna for the day and after walking around all day I decided to use the bus to get back to the Stazione Centrale (the main train station there). At the bus shelter I waited at they showed where the bus was and how long of a wait we had and it was pretty accurate, but Bologna is a fairly small city in Northern Italy and doesn't have huge skyscrapers like we do, though it does have tons of the overhanging structures which I'm sure was a challenge. It is also a pretty important transportation hub, so perhaps that's what the (MTA) should be doing is seeing what other cities have done and incorporating some of their actions into their own proposals. As for the bus tracking there, it worked well that time, but it would be interesting to note how well other bus systems around the US and elsewhere work in terms of accuracy. I think the one thing you're forgetting is how slow of a process the whole bus shelter thing would be and how incompetent CEMUSA is. I can't believe how many shelters I see around the city that don't even have lighting at night, let alone bus information. Really ridiculous. Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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Yeah and there are still many old black bus shelters too. CEMUSA really does a bad job.

Some shelters have no lights so its still easy to get skipped especially if its an area with little to no lights within the bus stop area. They don't change advertisements right away in some areas. Near my stop an advertisement from 2010 was still in the shelter until September of 2012. And sometimes they leave shelters naked with no advertisements. And everybody knows the issue with CEMUSA not putting any schedules or map information in the stop. Some still have them but they are old and outdated a little.

My problem with MTA bus time is that ok it tells you how far away the bus is, but lets say the bus is stuck in traffic or in a detour, it still tells you how far the bus is as if there was little to no traffic. I noticed ppl are using and looking at the guide a rides more now. I even see ppl looking for the maps and schedules on MTA bus routes even though many haven't gotten the information put in them yet.

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Yeah when I lived in Italy, I went up to Bologna for the day and after walking around all day I decided to use the bus to get back to the Stazione Centrale (the main train station there). At the bus shelter I waited at they showed where the bus was and how long of a wait we had and it was pretty accurate, but Bologna is a fairly small city in Northern Italy and doesn't have huge skyscrapers like we do, though it does have tons of the overhanging structures which I'm sure was a challenge. It is also a pretty important transportation hub, so perhaps that's what the (MTA) should be doing is seeing what other cities have done and incorporating some of their actions into their own proposals. As for the bus tracking there, it worked well that time, but it would be interesting to note how well other bus systems around the US and elsewhere work in terms of accuracy. I think the one thing you're forgetting is how slow of a process the whole bus shelter thing would be and how incompetent CEMUSA is. I can't believe how many shelters I see around the city that don't even have lighting at night, let alone bus information. Really ridiculous.

 

 

On second thought, the stops listed on the sign in Chicago may just be the routes destinations not the bus stop the bus is currently at.

 

As far as looking at other cities first, that is fairly common practice. I would be surprised to learn that the MTA proceeded without first doing a thorough investigation of what is happening in other major world cities.

 

As far as CEMUSA being incompetent, I do not know if that is the issue. They are a business looking to do the minimum they can get away with. If there is something they think they can get away with like not cleaning the shelters after the big blizzards, they will continue to do a poor job in those areas. Apparently no one is requiring them to install route numbers, maps and schedules, so they are not doing it. I blame DOT as much as or more than CEMUSA. All in all, I don't think they are doing a horrible job. When was the last time you saw a smashed shelter and how long did it take to repair? Lights and other factors are also important and a few shelters have problems. I'm more concerned with widespread shelter problems, like no information, than problems that only affect very few shelters, as long as repairs are made in a timely manner.

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On second thought, the stops listed on the sign in Chicago may just be the routes destinations not the bus stop the bus is currently at.

 

As far as looking at other cities first, that is fairly common practice. I would be surprised to learn that the MTA proceeded without first doing a thorough investigation of what is happening in other major world cities.

 

As far as CEMUSA being incompetent, I do not know if that is the issue. They are a business looking to do the minimum they can get away with. If there is something they think they can get away with like not cleaning the shelters after the big blizzards, they will continue to do a poor job in those areas. Apparently no one is requiring them to install route numbers, maps and schedules, so they are not doing it. I blame DOT as much as or more than CEMUSA. All in all, I don't think they are doing a horrible job. When was the last time you saw a smashed shelter and how long did it take to repair? Lights and other factors are also important and a few shelters have problems. I'm more concerned with widespread shelter problems, like no information, than problems that only affect very few shelters, as long as repairs are made in a timely manner.

 

I wouldn't call no lighting a problem with only a few shelters though. As for the smashed windows, I admit that I haven't saw many in a long time but that could be simply because there aren't as many incidents with folks smashing them out as in the past.

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But see that is a problem, you can't look at other cities. This city is dynamic in a way far beyond that is taught or even seen. I've been to other cities across the globe and nothing compares to the dynamics of New York. You can take bits and pieces from other cities but it will never be the same. A bus route that people take for years changes before their own eyes. I've seen ridership on all sorts of routes shift and change only in the past 5 years. People come and go, transit users, car drivers it doesn't matter. This city is so different and dynamic that you can't just pick a different city and use their system, it won't work here.

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But see that is a problem, you can't look at other cities. This city is dynamic in a way far beyond that is taught or even seen. I've been to other cities across the globe and nothing compares to the dynamics of New York. You can take bits and pieces from other cities but it will never be the same. A bus route that people take for years changes before their own eyes. I've seen ridership on all sorts of routes shift and change only in the past 5 years. People come and go, transit users, car drivers it doesn't matter. This city is so different and dynamic that you can't just pick a different city and use their system, it won't work here.

 

 

Yes, NYC is unique, but that doesn't mean that experiences in other cities is irrelevant. You still need to look at it, then realize why NYC is different and include that in your analysis.

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Unless that app allows you to see the Bus Time as if you were viewing it on your desktop I wouldn't bother. Besides I try to avoid apps anyway where possible to keep my phone running smoother. I do have a few apps but they're not for transit.

 

It does all that and more. It shows maps without any lag, displays full schedules for all routes, has interactive BusTime, shows service status and more!

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The countdown clocks were unnecessary and inaccurate. Even if Clever Devices was chosen for the Bustime program (which IMO they should have been because they offer auto announcements and other incentives besides the clocks), I don't see those things working out at all.

 

If someone without a smartphone wants to know where their bus is, chances are there will be someone else at their stop that will be more than happy to check Bustime for them.

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Yeah when I lived in Italy, I went up to Bologna for the day and after walking around all day I decided to use the bus to get back to the Stazione Centrale (the main train station there). At the bus shelter I waited at they showed where the bus was and how long of a wait we had and it was pretty accurate, but Bologna is a fairly small city in Northern Italy and doesn't have huge skyscrapers like we do, though it does have tons of the overhanging structures which I'm sure was a challenge. It is also a pretty important transportation hub, so perhaps that's what the (MTA) should be doing is seeing what other cities have done and incorporating some of their actions into their own proposals. As for the bus tracking there, it worked well that time, but it would be interesting to note how well other bus systems around the US and elsewhere work in terms of accuracy. I think the one thing you're forgetting is how slow of a process the whole bus shelter thing would be and how incompetent CEMUSA is. I can't believe how many shelters I see around the city that don't even have lighting at night, let alone bus information. Really ridiculous.

 

just pathetic they need to be dropped and bustime is all that is needed it works perfectly if you folks want to see traffic just go to google maps and look at the roads your bus uses and then click back to browser on bustime and you can make a good guess when the bus will come.
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The countdown clocks were unnecessary and inaccurate. Even if Clever Devices was chosen for the Bustime program (which IMO they should have been because they offer auto announcements and other incentives besides the clocks), I don't see those things working out at all.

 

If someone without a smartphone wants to know where their bus is, chances are there will be someone else at their stop that will be more than happy to check Bustime for them.

 

For the buses..... What's funny about that is that I barely paid any attention to them !

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A note about google maps and traffic is that it's not always accurate. I mean I was looking at 164th street from hillside to 73rd ave and it was showing me a red line. When I punched in direction is said 13 mins with heavy traffic. It took me 5 mins and not a car on the road... So I think that you can't go off google maps traffic unless its for a highway or a bridge.

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The countdown clocks were unnecessary and inaccurate. Even if Clever Devices was chosen for the Bustime program (which IMO they should have been because they offer auto announcements and other incentives besides the clocks), I don't see those things working out at all.

 

If someone without a smartphone wants to know where their bus is, chances are there will be someone else at their stop that will be more than happy to check Bustime for them.

 

Very true. I've helped folks out on Staten Island while waiting for the express bus. They didn't know about the program but when they heard about it they were intrigued. They were older and not tech saavy but wanted to know how they could use the technology on their non smart phones nevertheless, so I showed them.

 

Instead of BusTime installed on buses, why can't the MTA base it off of bus schedules to save money.

 

What more would bus schedules do when we already have those?? The whole point is for folks to know where their bus is so that if there is a problem they can rearrange their travel plans.

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