NY MTA Riders Get Location of Next Bus in Real-Time Via Text

Jan. 26, 2012
Mobile Commons powers text messaging for New York City MTA bus tracker.

Mobile Commons has partnered with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to provide the text messaging capability of MTA Bus Time -- the MTA's new public bus tracking system that allows riders on more than 50 New York City bus routes to track real-time bus locations on the Internet, via smart phones and by text message.

Mobile Commons' innovative platform allows commuters to receive live GPS data regarding the location of their bus via text message. When commuters text a bus stop code or intersection to 511-123 on their cell phones, they receive a text back stating how many stops away the next bus is.

"As New Yorkers, we are thrilled to be working with the MTA to provide essential bus information in real-time to our fellow commuters," said Jed Alpert, CEO of Mobile Commons. "Our texting capabilities allow the MTA Bus Time system to be accessible to as many people as possible. Whether you have a smartphone or a text-enabled phone, you can find out where your bus is to help make every minute count."

By having Bus Time information readily available via text, the data is accessible to the majority of bus customers, who may not regularly carry smartphones, laptops or tablets, but do have cell phones. Nearly all cell phones have the ability to support SMS text messaging, and 91 percent of Americans carry a cell phone. More than 6 billion text messages are exchanged every day in the United States.

"When a rider sends a text, Mobile Commons queries the MTA Bus Time Server, and texts back real-time bus information in seconds," said Benjamin Stein, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Mobile Commons. "Riders expect an immediate response and the data must be available 24/7, so we designed a highly responsive system that seamlessly works with the MTA's infrastructure to provide bus location details via text to millions of New Yorkers."

Mobile Commons is a New York-based software company that enables hundreds of companies, nonprofits, and government agencies to make their data accessible via text message. For MTA Bus Time, Mobile Commons provides the connectivity between cell phones, all the wireless carriers such as Verizon and AT&T, and the MTA Bus Time Servers.

"Innovations like Bus Time," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, "are the result of the kind of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity our City thrives upon. It's the reason our tech community is growing rapidly, and why two of the firms involved in Bus Time – Open Plans and Mobile Commons – are local New York tech start-ups. Our City is home to the smartest and most talented workforce, and it's the perfect place for homegrown companies like Open Plans and Mobile Commons to expand and thrive. That's good news for commuters, our budding tech sector and all New Yorkers."

Open Plans is another New York City-based technology firm that worked with the MTA to create MTA Bus Time.

"Bus Time is going to transform the way that our 2.5 million bus riders use the bus system every day, and we're thrilled to start on Staten Island," said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota, "The MTA continues to bring new technology to our customers in ways that make our transit system better every day."

MTA NYC Transit rolled out MTA Bus Time first on Staten Island, and the agency will shortly begin deployment of Bus Time technology to depots in the other boroughs. Over the next year, more than 6,000 buses and 14,000 bus stops will be upgraded in order to make Bus Time fully operational city-wide by the end of 2013. For more information about MTA Bus Time visit www.mta.info/bustime.