Thursday, November 08, 2007

Transit Info by Text Messages

Have you ever needed to take a bus or train but not had a schedule handy? Have you ever looked at the posted schedules at stops and found them missing or out of date? Or, like me, do your find printed schedules too difficult to read? I have a plan. However, I am not the first to think it up, as it has been implemented in some cities.

Public transit systems ought to offer schedules via text messages. You can access all sorts of data, from nearby restaurants to movie schedules to sports scores via Google's SMS system (see description at Why couldn't the same system apply to transit schedules?

If each stop were label led with a stop ID, then a person waiting at the stop could send the stop ID to the designated text message service (e.g. GoTTA for the Triangle Transit Authority) and receive in return the next five buses expected at the stop. Sending the bus line (e.g. CHT NS for Chapel Hill Transit's NC route or TTA 412 for the TTA's 412 route) would return the remaining schedule for that bus for the day. I think that this system would be very useful. This could also be hooked up with those new real-time bus/train notification systems.

With such a system, transit authorities would not have to roll out real-time schedule signs at every stop to provide riders with access. Bus systems would not need to print and distribute so many bus schedules. Riders could access this information anytime and from anywhere.

This system makes buses and trains more convenient for everyone, but it also makes them more accessible to the disabled. Disabled people must rely disproportionately on public transit and have greater challenges reading and using available schedules. So I hope more cities adopt such systems for their accessibility as well as their convenience.

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