PSTA bus riders can now get real-time location information and arrival times on their smartphones or via text message.
The new system, which the agency has been rolling out during the past three years, uses global positioning system technology to locate buses and forecast their approximate arrival times, up to 30 minutes away. Paid for with a $5.1 million federal stimulus grant, the system was designed by the New York-based Clever Designs, the same company that developed Chicago's bus tracking system.
Riders began using PSTA's tracking system about a year ago, but it has taken months for the agency to extend coverage to its entire network of routes. The agency's records from last month show that riders used the system more than 200,000 times.
"We do take some pride in this," said PSTA spokesman Bob Lasher. "Although underfunded and undersized, we are cutting edge."
How it works:
At each of PSTA's more than 5,100 bus stops, agency officials have posted a sign labeled "Real Time Bus Info," which lists all of the ways riders can access the updates.
Riders who have smartphones can see the estimated arrival times of the next several buses by going to www.RidePSTA.net and entering the unique bus stop number that's posted on the sign, or by scanning the barcode.
Cellphone users can get instant bus departure info by texting 41411 and writing PSTA, a space, and then the stop number (e.g. PSTA 3663). The service will respond with a text message listing the next few buses heading to that stop. Riders can also call PSTA's information hotline at (727) 540-1900.
And for those who are always racing to catch a bus, the new system offers email or text message alerts showing when the next bus is expected to arrive. Riders can set up an account on the agency's website and schedule alerts specific to their bus stop.