WI: Test tracking system now active for 12 Madison buses

May 21, 2024
The move to the new software, which overhauls the buses' operations, is timed to match up with the opening of Madison's first Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, line this fall.

May 18—There is a new way to track Madison's buses.

Twelve of them, anyway.

A test platform launched this week by Metro Transit offers riders a glimpse of the updated software that will be installed across the entire bus system this summer. Those taking one of the first dozen buses to make the switch — identifiable by the giant "TEST BUS" sign on the passenger side — can now find their buses and plan their trips using the new Metro Transit Bus Tracker web app.

For riders, the shift means no more juggling the multiple third-party apps, such as Transit and Google Maps, along with the Metro Transit website to figure out where to go and when to be there.

"This is a one-stop shop," said Jessy Stammer, Metro Transit's marketing and customer service manager. "Riders will be able to go here and find all of the information that they need in one place."

Madison's bus system has been due for an update for a while. The current software is so outdated that it doesn't always work properly on newer buses, Stammer said.

The move to the new software, which overhauls the buses' operations, is timed to match up with the opening of Madison's first Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, line this fall. The high-frequency, limited-stop BRT system will use new, longer buses that travel in dedicated lanes. It will also coincide with Metro Transit's move to account-based Fast Fare smartcards.

"BRT is the big splash to make it easier to get around the city," said Mick Rusch, Metro Transit's chief development officer. "But this technology is also something that is going to make the buses move more quickly and just make it more exciting and easy to ride the bus."

The next few months will be a transitional period, however. Buses can't run both versions of the software at the same time. The 12 test buses are no longer visible through Metro Transit's old tracking system, and more buses will disappear as Metro Transit migrates to the new software.

"If you can't see it on your current tracking method ... you should check the other platform," Stammer said.

The new tracking system is expected to go online sometime this summer, complete with live maps, information about detours and automated alerts. Many of its features are already active, but "it's not perfect quite yet," Stammer said.

Metro Transit is suggesting that users hold off on signing up for alerts until the new tracker is fully functional.

For riders whose buses haven't made the switch yet, "it's just going to show scheduled information, which isn't horrible," Stammer said. "But it's going to be the same thing every single day if you don't get one of those 12 buses."

The test platform can be found at mymetrobus.com/test.

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