MTA starts live bus tracking service

Wondering what time a bus will show up is a thing of the past for Bronxites, thanks to new technology from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The MTA’s live bus tracking service, MTA Bus Time, has recently expanded to all 54 bus routes in the Bronx.

Riders can now get the locations of buses in real time on their smart phones, web and through text messaging.

Twenty-five of the bus routes using the tracking device also cross borough lines to serve Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood in Upper Manhattan, Midtown and Downtown Manhattan, Flushing, Queens, and Yonkers.

“Bus Time will completely change the way you use the bus,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota. “Instead of waiting at a bus stop in a state of uncertainty, now your phone can tell you when to start walking to the bus stop so you can get there right when the bus does.”

Bus Time uses location data provided by an enhanced global positioning device mounted inside each bus.

The information is transmitted wirelessly to a Bus Time server using onboard cellular equipment.

The server integrates bus location data with bus route info, schedules and map files to output the information received by bus customers.

The expansion more than doubles the size of the Bus Time system. Crews have installed enhanced GPS hardware in 1,034 buses that operate out of five depots.

Computer databases have added information about 3,355 bus stops, augmenting the 3,365 bus stops already incorporated into the service.

The tracking service can be retrieved by any web-enabled smart phone or desktop computer by going to and entering a bus route, intersection, street address, landmark or bus stop code.

From there, riders will get a map showing them where buses are located within the specific route or region they have searched. They can then click on a bus stop of their choice for more detailed information.

To receive tracking information by text message, riders can text an intersection or street address to 511123 from any cell phone to receive a message listing local bus routes. They can then select a route and direction to learn the location of the closest bus stop and how far away the next buses are. Bus distances are given in terms of miles away if the bus is far, and in terms of bus stops away if it’s close.

Riders can also save a step by texting a bus stop code, provided online at Bus Time’s web site, and printed on the Guide-A-Ride schedules posted at bus stops, or by scanning a QR Code printed on the Guide-A-Ride schedule posted at bus stops.

Without touching a button, the smart phone will instantly show information about buses approaching the stop where the rider is.

Because of Hurricane Sandy and the nor’easter, some bus stops do not yet have Guide-A-Rides showing the QR Codes and bus stop codes, but will be updated soon.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said he is excited about the new system’s expansion to the Bronx, just in time for the cold weather.

“This popular digital system is very convenient and will come in handy all year round, providing bus riders in our borough with up to the minute information to track the real-time location of their bus, so they no longer have to rely on guesswork,” Diaz said.

“I applaud the MTA for expanding this program to the Bronx and I can’t wait for Bronxites to start taking advantage of this service.”

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3394

More from Around NYC