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Real-time apps keep Newton T commuters on time By Laura Paine/Staff writer Wicked Local Newton Posted

Aug 17, 2010 @ 02:10 PM Newton ² Long waits for MBTA buses while regularly checking the clock is a common ritual for many Newton commuters, but new real-time bus applications have been created to cut back on waiting times, finally answering the age-old question: where is my bus? The MBTA began releasing real-time data to allow bus riders on 135 routes to access real-time information on bus locations and arrival time predictions for all of the bus stops. Data has been released for a number of buses in the Newton area, including the Number 60 bus to the Chestnut Hill Mall via Cypress Street; the 502 to Watertown via Newton Corner; and the 556 to Newton Corner. Davey expects the remaining routes will be released by Labor Day. ³We¶ve had a lot of success,´ he said. ³The idea is that the real-time information becomes as ubiquitous as the weather. We¶ve been getting excellent feedback. The number-one complaint I have received is, µwhy is my bus not yet available.¶´ The MBTA has been working with a volunteer consulting firm that has helped to create a predictive algorithm. ³The trick is predicting when it will arrive, where our customers are from, and where it is at that very moment,´ Davey said. ³It considers time of day, traffic, other patterns and also how the bus has performed recently in terms of on time and distance. It takes all that information and then predicts when the bus will arrive.´ He also said the system is ³very accurate.´ ³We¶re able to predict largely within 30 seconds to the bus arrival,´ Davey said. ³Occasionally that may change if there is some serious traffic somewhere or some unexpected issues on the roads, but the algorithm takes in traffic patterns depending on the time of day.´ There are a number of applications available to smartphone users, which are varied in price as well as visual style and function. Applications for iPhone users include MassTransit and OpenMBTA. Android users should look for BostonBusMap and AnyStop. RailBandit has been created for BlackBerry users. The MBTA is not endorsing any applications, but Davey said opening the data up for outside developers has been a real asset for the MBTA. ³For the T being in debt as we are and trying to manage our limited resources wisely, to use this company and to really call upon the public and the developer community to help us. They have really responded tremendously,´ Davey said.

The next step will be releasing data for the subway trains as well as commuter rail. Currently, the MBTA has not set a date for those releases.

Laura Paine can be reached at Copyright 2010 Newton TAB. Some rights reserved