Solving Cities

Bus tech in Detroit creates a smoother ride

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Location-tracking devices in Detroit buses will provide real-time updates for passengers.

Following the lead of cities across the United States, Detroit is rolling out technology on its city buses to make taking the bus less of a guessing game for passengers.

Currently, 95 percent of the city's buses have been equipped with location-tracking technology so that the system's central control center can monitor bus routes. If a bus is delayed because of traffic congestion, for example, they'll know. If they need to add buses to a busy route they'll be able to quickly add more.

While it might help the system operator make changes in routes to reduce delays, the real bright spot for passengers will come later this fall, The Detroit News reports.

Because most of the buses now have the tracking devices, the city plans to release an app that gives passengers real-time information about where buses are on a route and when their bus will arrive at their stop. The app is being developed by Code for America and is expected to be released in September.

Research can't definitively say that real-time updates increase transit ridership, but the upgrades will certainly provide more reliability for riders. And Detroit Department of Transportation's Chief Operating Officer, Ron Freeland, thinks it will be enough to get transit ridership numbers going in the right direction. He told The Detroit News:

We have to re-establish the riders' confidence in the system. Once the riders regain confidence that DDOT is going to provide bus service, and it's going to be out there; it's going to be on time; we're not going to miss runs, then I think you'll see that the ridership will actually start to increase again.

No one wants to wait at a bus stop not knowing if they'll be waiting 2 minutes or 20.

Photo: Flickr/Buddahbless

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure