PA: Name for Port Authority Tracker Might Ring a Bell

Aug. 18--It's a fairly safe bet that Port Authority will not, as one rider suggested, name its new bus-tracking system "Our Best Guess."

As it gradually implements the system that allows riders to track the precise locations and arrival times for buses and rail cars, the transit agency has asked its customers to come up with a name for it.

The authority has set up a website, paac.mindmixer.com, where riders can post suggestions through Aug. 31, after which the transit agency promises to review the ideas "and consider them." The site challenges visitors to come up with a name that "is catchy, suggests what the product does and sets it apart from others."

That pretty much rules out this suggestion, inspired by a Barry White anthem: "Never Gonna Pick You Up, Always Gonna Let You Down."

Scratch this one, as well: "LATE: Location and Arrival Time Estimator."

The authority has launched real-time tracking for eight bus routes so far, and expects to have nearly every route on the system by the end of the year. Tracking of Light Rail Transit vehicles is scheduled for implementation next year.

Using GPS technology, the system allows users of mobile devices and computers to track the actual locations of buses and view projected arrival times, updated every 30 seconds.

The routes that currently are available are P1 East Busway-All Stops, P3 East Busway-Oakland, 8 Perrysville, 41 Bower Hill, 48 Arlington, 56 Lincoln Place, 86 Liberty and 88 Penn. Several other routes will be added next month, spokesman Jim Ritchie said.

"The idea was very simple. We thought if we're going to use this, why not ask the general public what they would like to see it called," he said.

"The first thing you notice (viewing the suggestions) is that there's a wide range of ideas. Some of them are very good and certainly caught my attention."

So far, earnest responses have outnumbered the flippant ones, but a review of the entries suggests that this remains very much an open competition.

There's Bustle, short for Bus and T Location Estimator; TYOB, for Track Your Own Bus; WTB for Where's the Bus; ConnectTrack, which plays off the name of the transit system's smartcards; and TransiTrack, whose creator claims "practically rolls off the tongue."

AhrWhills (Our Wheels) might resonate with yinzers; PATtrack and PATrick use the acronym that Port Authority officials actively sought to retire several years ago; while PAACtrack uses the acronym currently in favor among bureaucrats (short for Port Authority of Allegheny County.)

If the election were today, these might rate an honorable mention: Bus Bloodhound, the Roaminator, PortRadar.

One rider, still aggrieved by the service cuts of years past, offered this: "Houdini -- you make needed stops disappear."

"We expected the comedy," Mr. Ritchie said, adding that the agency would not remove sarcastic or critical suggestions, only those that might be offensive.

"It's an open discussion," he said.

After the comment period ends, authority officials will discuss the results internally and probably invite more public input about the best suggestions, Mr. Ritchie said. "Usually when you throw out a bunch of ideas, a couple catch the most attention and something starts to stick with people."

The authority hopes to have a name in place this fall, he said.

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Twitter: @pgtraffic.

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