This post was written by Dan Majewski. He is a recent graduate (University of Arizona, 2011 – Regional Development) and a board member of the Living Streets Alliance.  He does not own a car and is passionate about helping make Tucson and Tucsonans less car dependant.

On Monday, (Editor’s note: Majewski submitted this last week)  I looked outside at the pouring rain and decided I did not want to ride my bicycle to campus.  I decided to take the city bus instead.  I visited the Sun Tran website to find information on which bus route to take and when a bus would arrive.  Normally, I went to the portion of the website with all of the Routes & Times of departure and arrival for the routes.

Here, you can select a route and then view an image of the route itself as well as all the times a bus will arrive or depart from certain points along the route.  This is how it looks:

These schedules are helpful but they lack information I want.  For example, what if my stop is not at one of those numbered points along the route?  I then have to estimate the time it takes to travel between the numbered points.  Also, the wall of numbers on these schedules is difficult to read and decipher.

Fortunately, using real-time GPS bus tracking, Sun Tran has found a better way to communicate arrival times to riders.

On the website, if users click “Live Bus Tracking” in the left hand column, a menu of options appears.

From this menu, users can click “Live Arrival Times” to find out when, according to actual GPS readings, buses will arrive at a given stop.  Using drop down menus, users can select the route, the direction of the route and the exact stop they will be using.  The website then displays the arrival times of the next three buses which will be arriving at that stop.

 If the user has a smart phone, this information is even more useful: you can always find out when the bus will be coming to your stop and your stop only, even when you’re on the go.

This new technology makes it far easier to figure out when to go to the bus stop.

On most days, I ride my bicycle to travel everywhere I need to go. However, if I ever need to use the bus, I now have a better way to find out when to leave my house and walk to the bus stop.

Have you ever used this technology?  What has been your experience with it?

11 thoughts on “A Tucson bicyclist takes the bus and likes it”
  1. I usually relish the challenge of getting to work when the weather is nasty out. 

    There are days however where I just don’t feel like riding. Using this tool could help me ultimately decide to take the bus on those days instead. 

  2. I wish Sun Tran would develop smart phone apps instead of having to go to their webpage and wait to load things.  Most big city municipal bus lines have apps that make bus tracking a breeze! 

  3. I didn’t know about this either… this is fantastic!

    I have to admit that I don’t take the bus as often as I should, but part of the problem was that I didn’t know the schedules well enough so it left me guessing.  This seems like, once I get used to it, it’ll make me have one less excuse.  I’m happy about that!  Thanks 🙂

  4. When I last visited the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, there was a new app called Magic Bus. It offered the schedule and the location of the nearest campus bus stop. You could also find out when the next bus would arrive.

  5. I take the bus when I’m not willing to leave my bike outside or when I can’t take it inside my destination.  Having spent a fair amount of times riding buses, I never knew of the GPS feature on the website.  That’s a good find.  It should be noted that under /Routes & Time/Map/Schedules the HTML option gives you all the stops on a route, not just the handful or two that the pdf version gives.  Perhaps that’s the “wall” of information that the rider was talking about.

    Riding the bus is certainly interesting, and it is, on more occasions than one might expect, a rich olfactory experience.  Certainly, more people should give the bus a try.

  6. Bus late, bus early, bus on time…this has been going on for as long as there has been the bus and it’s not clear to Red Star that  gee whiz, tres chic, trendy apps will fix it or increase ridership significantly.

    Why hasn’t Sun Tran partnered with Google to map walk times and bike times to specific bus stops?

  7. Red Star, I agree with you completely.  That’s the beauty of this technology: you can know if the bus is going to be late or early.  As long as buses do not have designated lanes, they will always be subject to traffic delays.  Fortunately, this technology informs the user when these delays happen.  

    That’s another great question.  Here is their administrative office number if you want to call them to find out: 520-623-4301. 

  8. That’s all well and good, but my technology is limited to 46 in the front and 18 in the rear.

  9. 46 18, never even considered that combo.  Interesting, pretty much 2.5 with 9 skid patches.  Duh, now I’m sorry I went with 47 19

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