Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bus Catching Skillz

Rule #1: Thou shalt use real-time info.

If your bus is running late (which it did most of the winter due to apocalyptic snow) real-time lets you know that you have time to make a cup of tea before leaving the house, find that overdue library book you meant to return, or tie your shoes before running out the door (a luxury). There's really nothing worse than running for the bus and then standing at the stop for 10 minutes thinking about everything you didn't do in order to be there on time.

With NexTrip, Metro Transit lets you pull up your bus stop and see what's coming, but only if you are one of the major stops listed. My stop, Emerald, is the only place between Oak Street and Fairview that has a time point. This worked out great, until the Emerald stop closed a month ago. Now when I bring up the NexTrip for Emerald, there is no real-time info. My new little stop to the west, Bedford, isn't a choice.

But looking at the static info and waiting in the cold is for amateurs! It will not do. It does not allow maximum laziness on my part.

So for the last month, I have been trying pinpoint the exact travel time between Oak Street and Bedford, and adjusting my scurrying accordingly. You would think it would be fairly straighforward. Not so. It seems that the bus is usually behind schedule when approaching Oak Street. So it may be 4 minutes behind schedule on the West Bank, leading me to believe I have 4 extra minutes in my life to, say, pack a lunch or scrounge for a granola bar. But it turns out, when the bus is late, it might make it up in that Oak to Emerald stretch and still arrive on time. Hence my +4 minutes become zero, and I miss the bus. Worst of all, you have no idea if you are a minute early or a minute late, so you stand there, like a schmuck, seeing a bus mirage in every UPS truck. Being one minute late is just a less depressing way of saying you are 14 minutes early for the next bus.

Just as really getting tired of all this bus chasing, Metro Transit quietly unveils the magical stop identification number:

"Each transit stop has a unique number. Use the number to get NexTrip times for your particular stops. Find Stop Numbers with Services Finder or the Interactive Map. "

I can get ALL route departures for ANY bus stop? No more fuzzy math and running for the bus in heels? Maybe I am the last transit rider in the TC to figure this thing out...but in any case, it is very exciting! Laziness and procrastination are back in business!

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