Get out your iPhones, Nashville bus riders. Metro’s real-time bus app is almost here.
After talks first began five years ago, the Metro Transit Authority is preparing a “soft launch” in December of new real-time information capabilitythat will enable passengers to track the status of buses on mobile apps as well as digital boards at bus stops. A specific date is not finalized.
MTA has branded the new real-time information component the Music City Transit Tracker.
The actual cellphone app operated by MTA probably won’t be available until January. However, the availability of real-time data in Nashville is set for next month, allowing passengers to use existing third-party apps used across the country, such as Transit, to now follow the status of buses in Nashville.
“One of the real principles of everything we’re doing with this is that it’s open data,” MTA CEO Steve Bland said, adding that Vanderbilt University and MTA also are working on an app that will sync into the new data.
“When you know when your bus is going to arrive, you feel better about the experience,” Bland said of the real-time concept. “In fact, studies say our perception of time goes down, even if you’re waiting the same amount of time, with real-time information, because you know how much time you’re waiting. We think it’s going to be a real big enhancement.”
Commuters can already turn to mobile apps to view MTA bus schedules. The new technology shift coming next month will allow users to track whether a bus is running early or running late. That will be made possible by a wealth of new data relayed from systems similar to GPS installed in every city bus.
Digital boards at Music City Central and bus rapid transit lite stations on Gallatin, Murfeesboro and Charlotte pikes also will eventually display real-time information as part of the Music City Transit Tracker. For AccessRide customers, the system will generate automatic calls to users to remind them of their pickup times, dates and locations.
The plan is to launch an MTA website that will detail all the places and apps where the new Music City Transit Tracker real-time information will be available.
“It is, without a doubt, when I go out and speak or just talking to riders on the street, it’s the No. 1 question I get,” Bland said. “When are we getting our app?”
Metro is using $3.4 million in federal funds and $2.2 million in state and local funds for the transportation management software installations to enable the shift to real-time data.
MTA has contracted a transportation management company called Trapeze to lead the technology upgrades that will effectively link Nashville’s data to the networks of third-party apps such as Transit.