Bus rider communications improvements: Get arrival info via text message
On Monday we wrote about planned improvements to communications with rail riders in 2009. Today we recap improvements in communications to bus riders, detailed in the CTA Tattler Coffee with Ron Huberman last Saturday.
The most intriguing initiative is the ability to text a phone number posted on bus stop signs to learn the arrival time of the next bus. Huberman promises this feature by early next year, made possible by Bus Tracker location information.
And speaking of Bus Tracker, I asked Ron why there haven't been additional bus routes added in the last two months. He said the CTA needs to get more new buses on the road so they can retire the last of the buses bought in 1991. Due to the lack of capital funding, the CTA is leasing buses instead of buying them. He said the CTA can't write off depreciation, since it's a public agency. But private companies can, so they buy the buses, lease them to the CTA, take advantage of the depreciation writeoff, and pass on some savings to the CTA.
Huberman acknowledged there still are issues with reliability with Bus Tracker information -- issues that have been reported by many Tattler readers. Issues such as buses either dropping off the Bus Tracker data base, or never showing up there. Ron said reliability is still in just the 90% range. He's trying to get it to 98%.
Finally, Huberman mentioned the CTA has gotten a grant to install video screens at the busiest bus stops -- much like those at rail stations. Unfortunately, there's not enough cash to install them across the vast CTA bus system.
Huberman said all of these improvements should be in place in the next six months.
Plus, on Monday, Huberman announced that advertising info boards will be mounted on the curb side of some buses. A total of 100 buses will be equipped with the digital advertising display boards, part of the$101 million deal to equip train stations with the 55-inch screens.