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Newest Bus Tracker features: email and text alerts

Starting Monday, May 18, CTA riders can get estimated times for bus arrivals at preferred stops via scheduled email or text message. And by the summer, the CTA will test-pilot "on-the-go" two-way texting for riders to get arrival times for the next four buses at a specific stop.

These cool new features expand on the CTA's promise to get more information into the hands -- and communications devices -- of its riders.

"To accommodate customers’ varying schedules, e-mail subscriptions can be created for various bus route(s), bus stop location(s) and directions of travel. In addition, the alerts also can be customized to be sent within a designated time frame, at intervals from five to 30 minutes, and on any day of the week."

For the "on-the-go" text messaging pilot, the CTA will assign bus stops included in the pilot a unique ID number that riders can include in a text to a designated number.  In reply, riders will get the estimated arrival times of the next four buses.

We should note that the CTA always refers to "estimated arrival times" under Bus Tracker, but these times calculated via their GPS system, not taken from the printed schedules.

Sign-up will begin next Monday at the Bus Tracker site. More details are in the CTA press release.


It's also worth noting they are adding 20 new routes to the bus tracker, which will mean all routes will be on there, with the exception of 4 special ones that don't have a set schedule (Wrigley Field, United Center, etc.)

Why can't they put the special routes to the sports arenas on here too? I don't care if there is a schedule, I just want to know when one will arrive at any given stop.

I'm guessing they had to wait until all the buses were on Bus Tracker to enable these features. This won't affect me, but will be nice for everyone who doesn't have a "web-enabled device" as the CTA likes to call it.

Nice! Looking forward to trying this out.

id like to see the 'next train' rolled out to more of the frequently used stations

Nice for regular trips/times. But it doesn't solve the problem created by the 'new and improved' Bustracker mobile as implemented at least via Sprint - now it is impossible to bookmark anything but the main page. Every other level seems to be associated with session information in some way, so that navigating to either a bookmarked page or browser history - even within 3-5 minutes of the marking - gets a Link Expired message. That blew out my set of frequently used route and stops bookmarks.

I gather the same problem must not exist with other mobile carriers' implementations?

My many-months-old bus tracker bookmarks still work on my Sprint phone.

Except for US Cellular, the text message variation works fine. At first is was exactly 10 minutes off but that was fixed. Now, it's accurate or a minute off either way. It's now possible to plan departure to a favourite bar and from it and not to have to wear a coat - no matter how cold it is. Since you can now time a departure to less time than it takes to smoke a cigarette (the old fashion bus tracker) it means a cold-tolerant person can go like summer year-round. :) Perfect for this polar bear! And, when I smoke, given the smoking ban, I take the ciggie outside sans jacket no matter how cold it is.

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