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Bus tracker expansion set for April 7

During Saturday's coffee with CTA President Ron Huberman, he mentioned the CTA would announce on Monday the 20 bus routes that will be part of the first expansion of the CTA's GPS bus tracker project.

Bus_tracker_sign_4 But as ChicagoBus.org reports, the CTA already has posted signs along 13 bus routes out of the Archer garage about the coming bus tracker expansion. The routes are:

  • #35 35th
  • #39 Pershing
  • #43 43rd
  • #49 Western
  • #X49 Western Express
  • #54B South Cicero
  • #55A 55th/Austin
  • #55N 55th/Narragansett
  • #62 Archer
  • #62H Archer/Harlem
  • #63W West 63rd
  • #94 South California
  • #165 West 65th

After the debut on August 2005 of Bus Tracker on the #20 Madison, the CTA was supposed to expand it last summer. However, the hardware installation proved more expensive than originally projected. Plus, the CTA didn't want to outfit the 1991 buses it plans to retire later this year.

The plan is to roll out more routes each month.

(Photo from chicagobus.org)


Apologies, because this is completely Off Topic, but has anyone recently tried joining the mobile cta_alerts? I've submitted a request to join a few weeks ago, and then again last week, and I'm still not part of the group. :( Bummah.

Would it be so hard for the CTA to just do what it says it's going to do for a change?

They already told us which routes would be first:


And they've certainly taken their sweet time doing this. In all these months, they couldn't figure out how to implement this for the bus lines they announced almost a year ago?

And even more recently, they said the bus tracker system would expand this month - not April. They can't even get the little stuff right.

God only knows what this program will look like by the time April comes around.

The #43 bus is also running longer hours as of Monday, March 24, thanks to neighborhood activism and a grant from the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development. Extending service until midnight means second-shift workers can easily transfer to the Red or Green lines and avoid an eight- to 12-block walk.

Learn more at Community Beat:

Hmmm, some of the most delay-prone routes in the entire system originate out of the North Park garage. Wonder why the CTA decided not to use the North Park garage...

Incidentally, I was on a SB 36 Broadway today from Irving Park to North Ave. The driver of this bus proceeded from Irving Park to Fullerton at about 6-7mph, regardless of traffic or whether there were people at stops. Why do I know this? Because joggers were keeping up with the bus.

By the time we reached North Ave, he was blowing through red lights (I'd never actually seen a bus driver blow a solid red until today) because he was so far behind schedule. DUH!! You ran the route ridiculously slow.

Wouldn't want that showing on the bus tracker.

Well, if the biggest problems come out of North Park (and I'm not saying I agree with that), then that would be a pretty bad choice for the first full garage roll-out.

Despite the long, long trial on the 20, they're still going to find a lot of problems as they roll it out on a bigger scale. Using a less problematic garage allows them to better isolate whether the problem is with the buses/routing/schduling/driver behavior, or with the tool itself.

There's also the issue with using the results from the tool to affect fixes. Fixing less complex, and less severe problems is where you'd want to start. Just like you wouldn't put a rookie project manager on the most complex problem in a company for his first job, you don't want to use your newest tools on the most complex problems until you get some more experience.

Oh... And I think that 74th and 103rd are both just as bad... maybe worse... than North Park. (Although a lot of those problems may be resolved by the re-assignment of routes that took place today.)

This post at chicagobus.org ( http://forum.chicagobus.org/index.php?s=&showtopic=979&view=findpost&p=9878 ) explains a lot of things, but one of the most interesting things is about when a run can be "picked" by a regular operator, or whether it has to be operated off the extra board, which results in drivers not experienced with each run dominating a route.

So perhaps one of the most important changes to impact service will be coming not from tracking the buses, and using the GPS tool, but rather the reassignment of routes to facilitate more "picked" runs.

Of course there are no easy answers. But with the route reassignments, at least they actually _did_ something, instead of just issuing a press release about how they intend to, sometime in the future, plan to do something.

Sorry Rusty, but I would want to fix the routes with the worst bunching first.
I was on a NB Clark last Friday that had a driver on his last run, he got off at Foster, the relief point. He dogged it all of the way north & the run was even slower due to a Coke truck blocking the lane near Wrightwood & a UPS truck doing the same near Wilson.
The new driver was speeding a bit, so obviously, he got to Foster late.

Clark, Broadway & the 151 Sheridan's that go to Devon, not the Belmont ones, are three godawful routes!

Indeed, the bus tracker's greatest promise is not that it will magically eliminate bus bunching, but that it will give a large number of riders information about arrival times that will mitigate the effects of bus bunching.

It's kind of bone-headed for the CTA to always change it's announced plans -- it makes them look like they are unable or unwilling to stick to their word -- but they should also be trying to get bus tracker rolled out ASAP on the longest, most irregular routes.

A couple of the routes that are getting bus tracker first are very short routes. If those routes are off schedule, it's probably more of a human competence issue than the inevitable variation in traffic that, say, the clark bus will encounter while traveling all the way from the loop to the far northern edge of the city.

And the idea that they needed to choose these routes in order to avoid installing the tracking equipment on old buses is just silly. It's just not plausible that the CTA couldn't figure out how to reposition equipment appropriately in 11 months.

To whatever CTA people allegedly care what's said here: please stick to your original plan. You're implementing this program idea far too late and way behind schedule -- and having set an expectation about which routes would be first and you're now disregarding that.

In short, you are implementing what should be a wonderful enhancement of CTA service in a way that seems almost *designed* to maximize rider irritation and frustration.

I'm not usually in the "the CTA is incompetent" chorus, but that conclusion seems pretty inescapable here. Can't they get anyone in there who will just stick to the plan?

I don't understand this. First of all, as a bus rider who uses the Western route and have in the past used other routes, the Western bus is one of the most consistent and frequent buses I've used. I don't need to know when it's here--it's never more than a few minutes away.

Second of all, they were planning this roll out while crying fowl that they didn't have enough money to operate the bus lines in question? So now that they've raised our taxes, they suddenly not only can afford to operate the bus routes, but can provide luxuries such as this? (Albeit useful ones, and other cities did this long ago). I feel like I've been played yet again.

And all this, while the el stops they're designing along the Brown line don't even have luxuries such as... a roof?

I just want my taxes to be lower again.

When will Chicago learn

Roger T,
What other comparable cities have provided this "long ago"? London's system was pointless and not actually based on real-time arrivals derived from GPS, rather based on the schedule with the ability for radio updates from control center. Not very useful. Do NY, LA, Bos, SF, Philly have a systemwide roll-out of a system like this?

in re: plans changing, the original plan when bus tracker was first announced was not for such rapid replacement of the old 4400s and 5300s; Huberman accelerated the purchase of all remaining options on the New Flyer contract to retire all 4400s and 5300s by the end of 2008. This impacted bus tracker because North Park has so many 4400s; despite the original intention to start there and simply remove/reinstall the bus tracker equipment upon retirement, it no longer made sense to do this with retirement pushed up. So equipment was installed first at the garages with no buses due for imminent retirement. Generally, the system can only be made live for an entire garage (buses being assigned to a garage, not to a route).

It's a major, complex system. I'd rather it be done right for a reasonable expense, rather than rushed. Rushing it results either in a cruddy product (like London's next bus arrival signs) or would entail excess cost (such as installing equipment on a bus then removing it 6 months later).

North Park has lost many of the Flxible 4400 series.
Almost all of the buses running on Clark or Broadway are the 5800 or the new 1500 series.
This is the first time in a long time that North Park got new buses before the South Side garages.

What is with the tracker routes, CMON, how about one for the oft-disappearing Diversey bus or Fullerton or Belmont or Clark!

The route aren't exactly hubs of activity, except for the 49

Actually, San Francisco's system is pretty much system wide now. Check it out for yourself. It looks like fewer than 10 of their 70-80 bus routes are missing from the system.

Anyhow, that's beside the point. It's not that we expect the CTA to be first in anything. But it's perfectly reasonable to expect the CTA to do what it, itself, said it would do.

They said they would start expanding this system last summer, and that by early 2008 it would be system wide. They announced which bus lines would be first.

They aren't starting with the bus lines they said they would, and now Huberman is saying that the full deployment of this won't be until NEXT YEAR!

That means some of the routes they said would be rolled out last summer might be rolled out as much as 18 months behind schedule.

It's just infuriating.

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