The thing I hate about riding buses is the “not riding” part. It’s the part where I’m standing at the bus stop, staring back up the street, longingly, hoping to catch a glimpse of a bus heading my way.
It’s probably raining. I’m probably cold. And I probably just missed the last bus by two minutes.
What if this part of the experience could be improved or even eliminated? What if I could use an app on my phone to see exactly where my bus was? What if that app could give me an estimated time the bus would arrive at my stop — and maybe I could even use it to get an estimated time that I would reach my destination?
I believe if Island Transit were to install some sort of GPS tracking system on its vehicles and allow riders a way to access that information through an app, such as I just described, ridership would increase. Even if it didn’t attract more riders, it would certainly improve the ride for those that already depend on it.
This idea was briefly discussed and dismissed at an Intermodal Transportation Committee (now deceased?) meeting a few years ago. But I believe now is a good time for the city to think about this type of innovation.
Other cities have similar services. Some use the popular Transit app. School districts are providing this type of service using commercial apps such as SafeStop. It should be within reach for Galveston.
Technology such as this would also be a terrific tool to help induce visitors to park away from the seawall and use the trolley system. If I parked downtown and saw on the app that the trolley was just making the turn at Murdoch’s, I would know I had time to swing into La King’s for the taffy pull and still catch my ride.
There are benefits for Island Transit, as well. Being able to track its vehicles in real-time would provide data it could use to improve efficiency of the routes. Island Transit could use the information to space the buses out more evenly. It could see when one of the drivers stopped too long near Donut Palace, for whatever reason.
There would be instant feedback on traffic delays and route problems. Island Transit could possibly use the information gathered to help with maintenance by knowing how long the buses were idling versus how long they were actually being driven.
I believe if the city really wants to increase ridership in the transit system, a bus and trolley tracking app is an essential part of the system.
If the city wants to test this before they make any investment, I’d be willing to donate an old iPhone 4. We could throw it into the back seat of one of the busses and use the “Find My iPhone” feature to track it around the city until the battery died or it got picked up and pawned.
Let me know and I’ll put it on the charger.