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New Tracking System Allows P1 East Busway Riders to See Actual Arrival Times, Waits

Deanna Garcia
90.5 WESA

Starting now, riders along the P1 East Busway will be able to track the vehicles in real time through the Port Authority's website, either on a computer, tablet or smartphone. The new program allows commuters to see either arrival times at specific stops or a map which shows where buses are.

“What it means on a cold, inclement day … whether you’re at home or at work you can look to see where your bus is to know when to go to your bus stop,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

This is the initial testing phase of the arrivals system, which will be limited to the P1 for now.

“Hopefully in about three months we’ll start to expand it to some other routes through the East End, and if all goes well by sometime late next year, we’ll be able to do it system-wide,” Fitzgerald said.

Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says riders have requested a real-time tracking system for years. The hope is to expand it to the entire bus system by 2015.

A real-time tracker has been a top request of riders for years, according to Fitzgerald. The tracker is currently hosted online through Clever Devices, but the Port Authority said access could expand in the future.

“Once we do this completely on our system we will make the information available so it may be tied into Carnegie Mellon’s Tiramisu and other apps that are out there,” said Scott Vetere with the Port Authority. “Private developers can take the information and make their own lookout. It’s very similar to systems that are in Chicago and Washington, D.C. They open their information up and some of them have as many as 15 different apps.”

CMU’s Tiramisu Transit is a crowd-powered transit information system. Here's how the university describes it:

“Even before a user boards a vehicle, Tiramisu displays the nearest stops and a list of buses or light rail vehicles that are scheduled to arrive. The list includes arrival times, based either on real-time reports from current riders, from historic data, or from the transit service schedule. Once aboard, the user indicates whether many, few or no seats are available and then presses a button, causing the phone to share its ongoing GPS trace with the Tiramisu server. Tiramisu also can be used to report problems, positive experiences and suggestions.”

The Port Authority systemrelies on technology aboard buses, with information updating frequently to give riders the most current information directly from the buses. During the initial pilot phase on the P1, the Port Authority will keep its eye out for any problems.

“This is a learning process for us as well, but it’s been within 95 percent accuracy for the testing period we’ve been going through,” Vetere said.

While the system is only available via the web right now, starting next month the Port Authority will install electronic countdown signs at select locations along the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.

Real-time tracking for the T system will be implemented separately, since light rail vehicles do not use GPS-enabled technology. Similar tracking for the T will require the installation of additional equipment.