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Text For Times: Port Authority Rolls Out New Transit Locator Tools, No Smartphone Required

Margaret Sun
90.5 WESA
The 51 bus rolls down East Carson Street in the South Side in this May 2017 photo.

There should be a word for the particular kind of helpless rage that comes from waiting – in the cold, in the heat, in the rain –for a bus or train to materialize, especially if it was due several minutes ago.

Port Authority rolled out new tools Thursday that should alleviate at least the pain of not knowing, and provide riders with up-to-the-minute schedule information.

While an embarrassment of real-time transit riches are available to smartphone users, Port Authority wanted to be sure all customers could access that information, regardless of the kind of technology they do or do not have, said spokesperson Adam Brandolph.

“Public transit is for everyone, we wanted to make these tools accessible to everyone,” he said. “It just makes the entire system that [much] more reliable and easier to navigate.”

To pinpoint the next bus, riders can text the agency’s acronym, PAAC, and a stop number to 41411, or call Port Authority’s customer service line, 412-442-2000, and follow the voice prompts.

Access riders can receive the same information by texting “ETA” to 412-727-8262 from a registered cell phone number. They will receive an estimated pick-up or drop-off time, how many stops away the vehicle is, and the vehicle’s ID number.

“Any access to information about bus routes and on-time service schedules is welcome,” said Laura Wiens, director of nonprofit Pittsburghers for Public Transit. “We appreciate that it’s being done across many levels of tech usage.”

Brandolph said Port Authority expects to roll out its new website this fall. Trip tools such as TrueTime, live vehicle tracking and schedule finders will be built into each page.