Without a doubt, there has been a big demand from transit riders to be able to get real time transit information in Phoenix. Apparently, many people can think of better things to do than wait for a train when it’s hotter than, hot. A couple of months ago, we saw a quote from METRO concerning the possibility of an upcoming system to help transit riders determine when their bus or train will be arriving at a station. “No, we’ve not built one. But this fall, we will have a way to give riders real-time info from their phones. More to come.” Well, that system has been announced. It looks like Phoenix bus and light rail riders can use a texting service called NextRide which allows passengers to enter via phone, text or online a unique five-digit code for their stop. After a text is sent, you will be notified of when the next train or bus should arrive. Signs will be located near stops and stations giving people the number they will need. If you use a particular station often, you should be able to store the number in your phone for use when you are getting close. This should be a handy way for passengers to time their ride.
METRO fields a LOT of calls for train and bus schedules each year, and they hope this service will cut costs in the long run. While the system wasn’t cheap, it sounds like they think it will help.
Many people have looked for a way to see incoming trains or busses via a phone app. Unfortunately, that’s probably not happening any time soon. Open data sources are not always readily available as you can see here.
Here’s an interesting quote from popular valley transportation blogger, exit2lef.
This is a step in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go. Two sections of the article say a lot:
"Wisner also had to wait for the successful conclusion of negotiations with the Phoenix Transit Department over acquiring the city’s trip-planning software for $53,000."
It seems like the City of Phoenix Transit Department is always dragging its feet in attempts at regional cooperation. The region’s largest city should act as a leader, not a spoiler, in unifying our patchwork of local transit agencies.
"Valley Metro says it will consider sharing its databases with application developers after seeing how well NextRide works."
Many cities have long had their transit data open to application developers, but Phoenix is acting strangely overprotective of its data. As a result, we’re lagging behind peer cities in terms of third party applications that can integrate data about transit routes and schedules with information about neighborhoods and local businesses.
For now, a text message is “high-tech” and should help in letting people know when their bus or train will arrive. I think the 21st Century is coming soon, maybe we will be a part of it.