It’s About Time

I expected to write this months ago. Press releases from the state agency noted an autumn timeline. I waited for the event to happen as crimson, amber, and golden leaves started falling from trees. And waited some more because when you’re not in command, you have to wait.

I contacted the agency a few times via their twitter account to ask for an updated status, leaving out the missed launch timeframe and focusing on my eager attitude, but heard nothing. The new year ushered in winter temps with snow-covered tree branches and I was still waiting. I even started to wonder if the recently elected state government officials reversed a policy? When the money stops, kiss programs goodbye. My mind wandered.

At least I could dream about how my commute would change while I queued. The potential, the specter of possibility filled the passing weeks every time I took up my post at my bus stop, gazing down the street through my monocular intermittently and then stuffing my hands back into my warm pockets until my bus would appear.

Finally, the program began a few days ago: through a website on desktops or mobiles as well as a telephone infoline, my city’s local bus system offered real-time tracking of buses.

Granted, living in DC and London for short periods of time in my 20s spoiled me, all the metro train schedule statuses standard and flashing on overhead boards. Visiting Switzerland showed me what on-time meant. My expectations would need to be tempered.

Not every bus in my city has the radio signal equipment and the press releases warn that intermittent outages can occur. The agency will roll out the system in phases and there will be some potholes along the route, but at least we’re moving on the way to networked real-time data. Things have to start somewhere and the sooner problems are found the faster they can be fixed.

In the future, I hope a feature like real-time data will encourage more people to ride mass transit. Selfishly, it will mean less time of mine will be spent standing in the rain or cold or boredom. Yes please.

Do you use mass transit? Do accurate schedules and arrival estimates encourage you to use it more? How do you access schedule data? Tell me about it.

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. floridaborne says:

    I live in the country about 3 miles from a small town. There is no regular bus route outside the county seat (A small city).

    I tried the transportation disadvantaged several times. The first time was for a pickup at my house. I had to walk 2 blocks to the road and waited an hour (since the time of pickup was anywhere between 6:30 – 7:30am. No bus. I called and was told that the driver was waiting for me for 10 minutes. There are 2 roads with the same state name and one of them is an Avenue the other is Street. I told them which was the right one, gave them the exact distance to the road from the main road where they turn off, and still the driver picked the wrong road. Once I got that straightened out, it took 1 1/2 hours to get to my destination. It’s a 1/2 hour drive by car. The reason was because so many people live in the middle of the country and it takes 10 minutes on dirt roads to get to them.

    In order to have the energy to actually work once I get to the client work site. I have someone drive me to and from work (1/2 hour each way).

    1. Yes it definitely saves some time and energy if you can arrange private transport! Those dirt roads sound like an adventure.

      1. floridaborne says:

        I wouldn’t be able to work even the part time hours I put into it if I had to ride the bus. The only choice was to use 10 of the hours I work each month to pay for transportation.

  2. Casee says:

    Our system to track buses is not the most accurate but it is better than nothing. The bus system itself is far too unreliable to get you to a job or
    most doctor’s appointments on time. The bus service dedicated to the disabled and low vision and blind community is not much better. Taxis and rides from kind family and friends is the way to go but you must not ask too often so as not to become a burden and taxi fees add up really quick.

    1. Transportation can be quite the balancing act.
      (Sorry Casee for the response delay, the site filed your comment as spam?! Sigh)

  3. Thank you for your complimentary remarks about travel in the UK bu, of course, we complain all the time! However, since I stooped driving I mainly use public transport and seldom wait more than 10 minutes for a bus or a train. There are apps for phone and computer which give accurate tracking on some routes and some bus stops and all local trains have lighted tracking notices. It is more difficult in rural areas where the buses are less frequent, sometimes only one or two a day but at least the roads are reasonably accessible. Delay s in the city and suburbs (i live7 miles from the city) are usually die to road repairs or traffic jams. Given the state of the planet due to the burning of fossil fuels I hope more people will turn to public transport. It is less convenient than using a car but I am certainly fitter now! Also I find it liberating not to have to search out parking places and worry about traffic wardens lurking about with parking tickets! Susan, keep on campaigning mass transport is the future!

    1. All reasonable points Bridget. City vs rural transportation issues vary. I primarily used the Piccadilly Line and then District Line for work, I felt terrible for my flatmate who had to rely on the Circle Line. It managed to stop daily for maddenly long times in tunnels and such. I had much better commuting experiences.
      What a great visual, lurking traffic wardens!

  4. Prior to stopping driving I quit using public transportation due to frustations in timing, frequent bus breakdowns, limited buses, rising costs, service cuts, etc. However since retiring two years ago and subsequently moving it sometimes makes more sense to use the bus depending on where I need to go. Most of the time though I use our paratransit service.

    1. When public transit is inconvenient, no one likes using it. Delays and service cuts can impact things enough to want to find alternatives. As an undergrad in Pgh, my student ID acted as a bus pass, opening up the whole city to me, but back then my schedule wasn’t as time sensitive and my location on canpus meant a variety of bus traveled nearby frequently. I hope the paratransit service is reliable for you.

      1. Oh that’s right, I forgot you spent time in Pittsburgh. They made significant cuts a few years ago but I believe they are starting to put some of those routes back into circulation. The paratransit service, though it has it’s issues, has been a wonderful alternative for me.

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