Bus system gets mobile

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By JASON STARR

About the same time Green Mountain Transit cuts the ribbon on its new transit center in downtown Burlington, it will also launch a mobile application that allows riders to track buses in real time.

Such apps are becoming an industry standard for metropolitan bus systems, according to GMT general manager Karen Walton. They eliminate any anxiety riders feel when waiting for a bus that doesn’t show up on the dot and enable riders to better time when they arrive at a bus stop.

No more getting there five minutes early, just in case, which is especially nice on bad weather days, Walton said.

“There are studies that show when you are standing at a bus stop, it feels like you’ve been there three times longer than you have,” Walton said. “Knowing where your bus is just helps in your day-to-day planning.”

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Green Mountain Transit is launching a phone app that will allow people to track bus times. (File photo)

Bus locating technology dates back to the advent of consumer global positioning devices in the early 2000s. Before taking over at GMT in 2014, Walton employed the technology through a company called RouteMatch in previous transit leadership roles in Virginia and South Dakota.

RouteMatch started as a way to allow transit planners to track buses and design routes on desktop computers. About four years ago, the company created a mobile companion for customers called RouteShout.

“If we can get on computers and look at where buses are, why can’t our customers too?” Walton said.

GMT is testing RouteMatch for staff use. It is also recruiting a handful of riders to download the RouteShout app for testing this month.

“We want to make sure we have customers looking at it for user-friendliness in ways we may not think of,” Walton said.

By late August, when the downtown transit center’s move from Cherry Street one block north to St. Paul Street is complete, the RouteShout app should be ready for widespread use. Riders can choose which of GMT’s dozens of routes to track.

GMT is also seeking a contractor to build a mobile ticketing app that would allow riders to purchase individual fares and bus passes on their phones.

Riders using mobile ticketing will show proof of purchase to bus drivers on their phones, instead of coming up with the $1.25 one-way fare in bills and coins.