Way back in 2002, I lived in an apartment in East Portland just off Burnside Street. At first, I thought the proximity to Burnside would be kind of a bummer (the nearby Sandy Hut notwithstanding). But after I few days, I realized that my location meant I would never need a bus schedule again. That’s because I could see the bus stop’s digital display from my apartment hallway. Once it read “4 minutes,” it was time for me to grab my bag and head out the door.
The best bus schedules are those that tell you when the bus will actually be there, and a printed schedule, even if its online, isn’t always a good place to find that information. Does such a thing really matter? Many people who ride the bus are minutes from their stop, and they don’t want to stand out in the rain inhaling gas fumes for five minutes. And seeing a line of people in the rain waiting for their bus and inhaling gas fumes definitely isn’t going to get other people out of their cars.
But if you live in Seattle rather than Portland, and you ride the bus, you do have options. Some of you might already know about My Bus, but I only recently realized it was a real thing and not some mock-up. Choose your bus number and stop location, or search by neighborhood to see when buses are likely to arrive. It also tells you when the last bus left, so you can track your loved ones or, if you’re feeling really wonky, do some calculations on whether the 7:57 is consistently so late that you might as well just stick with the 8:13 and squeeze in some extra minutes of sleep.
The best part: It looks like they actually have more stops listed than on Metro’s site. Sometimes, when you’re taking an unfamiliar route, it’s nice to know where the actual stops will be rather than just guessing based on a route map or having to use the Trip Planner just to find out where the stops are.
They’ve got apps for web-enabled phones and texting options, too. I’m going to start using it and see how it goes. If anyone’s already using mybus, let me know if you’re really spending less time standing in the rain.
A reader also alerts me to the presence of One Bus Away, though I haven’t had much chance to explore that yet. It has a call-in, SMS and iPhone-special version options.
Oh, and if you plan to stay in Seattle for a few more years, Metro plans to have real-time displays on its five Rapid Ride routes, starting in 2010 from Federal Way to Tukwila. Ballard and West Seattle routes will come online a few years later…