So you ditched your car - here's help with public transit
October 21, 2008 2:58 PM   Subscribe

NextBus uses GPS to tell you the predicted time of the next bus. Google maps show buses in real time, and you can get updates on your phone/PDA. The coverage is limited to certain agencies within the US, so these other sites might be useful: Hopstop covers subways and buses in NYC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, DC, and more. (mobile version) Google Transit has many US metro areas in addition to Canada, Europe, and Japan. (previously) Many more locations inside. posted by desjardins (36 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Ah yeah, nextbus is the awesome. I live in a dorm at Rutgers and all their buses are hooked into the system. I can attest to it's accuracy, although sometimes the arrival time will go up or freeze if the driver decides to take a break. Other than that, it works great. Looks good on my fancy pants iphone too, although I'd like to see the live/google map when not at my desktop.
posted by Mach5 at 3:07 PM on October 21, 2008

Hey! I work on one of those! Great post!
posted by GuyZero at 3:16 PM on October 21, 2008

Actually, an easier way in Vancouver is to use Google Transit. It's all tied in there.
posted by Salmonberry at 3:17 PM on October 21, 2008

Too bad NextBus only has the streetcar for Seattle, the SMS feature would be nice (the KC Metro site mostly gets the job done, it just could be done a lot better). Before Google Transit, Bus Monster used to be pretty cool too.
posted by Mr. Palomar at 3:20 PM on October 21, 2008

I live in a dorm at Rutgers and all their buses are hooked into the system. I can attest to it's accuracy

I wish we had that when I went there. Trying to get those weekend buses was killer. I would ride my bike from Busch to College Ave because it was faster.
posted by smackfu at 3:25 PM on October 21, 2008

London Underground and DLR

Eeep. Not-updated-in-5-years third-party site. TfL's official planner is pretty good and has an OK mobile version. See also Mind the App's Tubes service information iPhone web application.
posted by cillit bang at 3:31 PM on October 21, 2008

This is the stuff thats making metro transit more viable than it was. The bus may not be on time but you know where it is and have an Idea of the ETA as opposed to having no clue.
posted by Rubbstone at 3:32 PM on October 21, 2008

Portland's Trimet's transit stuff has been pretty solid for a while now—I noticed the sexy AJAXification of the maps on fairly recently, but I've been super pleased at the site for long before that. And being able to dial in to the system on a pretty decent touchtone navigator is great for those of us using silly little widget-free bricks for phones.

Actually, an easier way in Vancouver is to use Google Transit. It's all tied in there.

I haven't had a need to use it yet, but yeah, I've noticed Trimet lines showing up on vanilla Google Maps searches. It kind of feels like The Future.
posted by cortex at 3:32 PM on October 21, 2008

I'm wondering if this technology will just enable buses to be even later if it catches on well enough. People will complain less about late buses, because they'll be able to prepare for it, hence the bus agency will worry less. Granted, I can be a pessimist.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:37 PM on October 21, 2008

Portland's Trimet's transit stuff has been pretty solid for a while now...

Trimet actually makes their underlying data publicly available so you can create your own trip planner or do whatever you think would be cool with their data.
posted by GuyZero at 3:41 PM on October 21, 2008

GuyZero - yeah, that's the "roll your own app" link.
posted by desjardins at 3:42 PM on October 21, 2008

I do love the San Francisco version. I live a five-minute walk of four buslines, any of which can sort of get me where I need to go (depending), and it's nice to know that if the 33 isn't due for 19 minutes, I can wait for the 9 (due in 7 minutes) and then hop the 22 (due 2 minutes after the 9 drops me at the stop across the street from the 22 stop).

I still bring something to read, though. Because there will always be ghost buses.
posted by rtha at 3:42 PM on October 21, 2008

posted by athenian at 3:45 PM on October 21, 2008

Ack. When I lived in Guelph, Ontario, Nextbus was a friggin' joke. Horribly inaccurate, in the event that it was even up at all. It got to the point where rather than saying "let's check Nextbus," we said "let's consult with the Prince of Lies."
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 3:50 PM on October 21, 2008

"let's consult with the Prince of Lies."

In fairness, this is what you get when you live in HELL. Well, apart from the Sleemans' plant.
posted by GuyZero at 3:54 PM on October 21, 2008 Is a woefully un updated site that provides SMS and web based live bus statuses still, for the King County Metro system. Most of all the other metro status services actually tap into the mybus backend also.

But it is still handy once you bookmark the relevant bus stop locations (which is not posted at the stops, but there is a movement by some transit nerds to make generic stickers, so they can be filled out and applied to the stop), you can use the system pretty well.

There is an iPhone app that does the same thing, but works pretty poorly. I have the pages for the specific stops I am interested in bookmarked on my iPhone as a webclip.
posted by mrzarquon at 3:57 PM on October 21, 2008

Actually a number of agencies make their data publicly available.

And two guys wrote their own trip planner for Toronto (TTC) with data they gathered manually. Everyone is waiting for the TTC to finally implement their trip planner in 2009. Entering the 21st century 9 years late is better than never I suppose.
posted by GuyZero at 3:58 PM on October 21, 2008

As a huge mass-transit geek, I would love to have GPS tracking of buses, but unfortunately the MBTA isn't covered on NextBus. (The head of the T has said publicly that he doesn't think people really want that; the mind boggles.) I did check out HopStop, and was not impressed. The time it gives for my commute to work is bizarrely exaggerated (34 minutes at 7:00 at night? I don't think so.) And unless I'm just missing it, I don't see the bus departure times. The click on a map to plan your route thing has the potential to be useful, but it uses Yahoo maps (fail) in an unusably tiny window. I'm going to stick with the really pretty good trip planner on the T's own site.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:10 PM on October 21, 2008

Thanks for the link, mrzarquon. The lightweightedness is nice compared to loading up the entire metro homepage. I'll have to try out the SMS service too.
posted by Mr. Palomar at 4:26 PM on October 21, 2008

I use NextBus in San Francisco all the time, but even cooler than the internet app ( here), many bus stops have a little NextBus display that tells you how many minutes until the next bus arrives. It totally rocks and means that you no longer have to walk out into the street, squint, and try to make out whether you should wait for a bus or walk or what.
posted by jasper411 at 4:27 PM on October 21, 2008

I use NextBus daily for comute between Ventura and Santa Barbara. Here's my homebound stop. It never says there's a bus coming when there isn't, but fairly frequently will say there's nothing coming for a long time even when that's not true. It's like some buses have absent or faulty gps units, or maybe the antennas aren't well positioned to hit the satellite.
posted by contraption at 4:27 PM on October 21, 2008

Oh hey, here comes my bus.
posted by contraption at 4:29 PM on October 21, 2008

Gainesville RTS. Only has some of the routes, for some reason.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:38 PM on October 21, 2008

Nextbus is pretty sweet in SF. Also you can get it on your phone via SMS, great way to decide if you want to wait for the bus or hail a cab. Including saving route shortcuts with the system or setup an alert when a bus is X minutes away.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:41 PM on October 21, 2008

Is it NextBus that handles the displays at the SF stops? Because I find those to be very accurate (although occasionally, at night, I've seen times for some of the lesser routes suddenly go from 5 minutes to 45 minutes). But the times I've tried NextBus online it has been horribly inaccurate. When housesitting one time near the 29 line, I would watch two stops from the house and compare the NextBus info, and not once in three days did I see it resemble anything close to reality.
posted by troybob at 4:41 PM on October 21, 2008

Last time I waited for a bus, I was spare-changed twice in twenty minutes, when I was expecting the bus in ten. No, I tell a lie, that was the next-to-last time. The last time, I waited forty minutes in which two of my buses ought to have come and gone, then caught a cab to the train station instead. So I would definitely like to see the real-time functionality in Boston. Unless I've missed a link, I'm not seeing any.

The MBTA mobile site is pretty dang handy, though, considering no single station can ever have all the schedules you might want, but the site does.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:04 PM on October 21, 2008

There's a similar system in Singapore by the dominant transport company SBS Transit called iRIS NextBus. The interface is pretty sucky. As far as trip planners for Singapore go, gothere is my favourite with the best interface hands down. Sadly it only calculates a single trip plan though, it would be nice to choose from a few alternatives.
posted by destrius at 7:32 PM on October 21, 2008

The above-mentioned CTA trip planner for Chicago is useful, but only lists the scheduled, not actual times for trains and busses. The new hotness (or rather what will be the new hotness when they've finished adding all the routes) will give you real time data on when the next 2-3 busses should arrive at any stop along their routes.
posted by sparkletone at 7:59 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Next bus is always on time
posted by timshel at 5:05 AM on October 22, 2008

Portland OR
posted by eccnineten at 5:47 AM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

God bless America, but there are no buses within walking distance of my neighborhood, no trains, no cycle lanes. I miss public transportation. I'd be excited if the next bus were scheduled to arrive within months.
posted by woodway at 6:29 AM on October 22, 2008

Google Transit covers the Twin Cities! Ooh, I am so excited to be free of Metro Transit's shitty, shitty trip planner.
posted by clavicle at 7:13 AM on October 22, 2008

iTransit: Melbourne and Sydney.
posted by robcorr at 12:20 PM on October 22, 2008

I'm right with you, woodway. It's a 15 minute DRIVE to the nearest train station, and that doesn't take me anywhere near my work. I know, I know - move closer, right? Sure, but our rent would nearly double, and I'd STILL have to drive since there's no public transit that comes within walking distance to where I work.
posted by desjardins at 1:38 PM on October 22, 2008

Yes, I feel guilty sometimes because I could be within walking distance of work if I paid a lot more money or lived in a run-down dump with cockroaches and riotous undergrads. I'm not opposed to riotousness, per se, so long as I can sleep somewhere quiet and mostly bug-free. (BTW enjoyed your emphatic caps on intl caps lock day).
posted by woodway at 3:12 PM on October 22, 2008

Every bus stop should get something like this! The number goes down every minute (well, sorta)!
posted by wei at 6:40 PM on October 22, 2008

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