Metro Transit bus riders - and those on other regional systems, too - now have the ability to see the exact physical location of their bus.
This week, Metro Transit rolled out a new enhancement to its NexTrip system called Map It! The innovation, officials say, should help alleviate frustration riders have had using the NexTrip platform. The platform lists predicted departure times, but riders have told The Drive over and over that the system didn't allow them to see if a bus was running late or if one was coming at all.
Map It! can provide reassurance to riders that their bus is on the way, a big comfort on bitterly cold and snowy days, said Ben Rajkowski, Metro Transit's assistant manager of Transit Information.
"Riders can now pull it [a map] up and see that their bus is two miles away," he said. While Map It! won't show how fast the bus is traveling or how long it will take to reach the stop, "it will allow riders to see that one is coming. They won't have to wonder if they have missed it or how to get home."
The feature can be accessed through the Metro Transit app or through the transit agency's website. The feature includes information for light-rail trains as well as suburban transit providers, including SouthWest Transit, Maple Grove Transit, Plymouth Metrolink and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority.
Here is how it works:
Riders can enter the stop ID number displayed on a bus stop sign, found through the Interactive Map or automatically with the GPS-based Find Me feature. A map with markers showing the location of at least one bus, as well as the route number and direction of travel, is then displayed for
that particular boarding location. Locations automatically refresh every minute.
Riders can also enter their route number, direction of travel and choose a stop from a drop down menu to get the same information after clicking the Map It button.
"That allows customers to see bus tracking and mapping in real time," Rajkowski said.
Besides Map It!, Metro Transit continues to expand its time by text service. Cellphone users can text the letters “mt” followed by the stop number (for example, “mt12345”) to 27299 and get bus schedules delivered to their phone. Last month, Metro Transit received more than 124,000 texts from passengers requesting bus information.
"That's like putting a real-time screen in their hands," Rajkowski said.
Metro Transit also is looking to put display monitors similar to those already at light-rail platforms and high-traffic bus stops in places such as libraries.
"NexTrip accuracy is moving forward," Rajkowski said.