Weekly Obsession: MTA's app

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 12:33am

Really, it’s an idea whose time has come.

The Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization awarded $1.65 million in federal money to the Metropolitan Transit Authority last week to help pay for a clutch of projects.

Among them: development of a smartphone app to make mass transit just a little bit easier.

Users will be able to track buses, knowing to-the-minute arrival times at their stops. No more watch-checking or guesswork. No more leaving the desk 10 minutes early only to find the No. 10 bus won’t be by again for 20 minutes.

Productivity among bus-riding worker bees skyrockets citywide!

Other cities have implemented similar programs. In Chicago, for example, the transit authority lists seven apps — none are sponsored or licensed by the authority — offering a mind-boggling array of information on the Windy City’s winding system. One app even includes a “missed connections” feature; after all, what is a more fertile ground for fleeting love than the back of a cross-town bus?

In Nashville’s ongoing quest for a functional, user-friendly mass-transit system, lurching like a bus at a green light into the 21st century is a step worth taking.

And obviously, this is a move aimed at a certain demographic: smartphone users, the stereotypical young, upwardly mobile urban-living professionals for whom mass transit should be a viable option for zipping across the city, but also a demographic that values convenience and speed. It’s not a group that cares to spend much time tracing timetables and route maps with their fingers; they’d much rather click the “Allow this app to use my location” dialog box and then wait for the magic of the machine to spit out the information.

No, a smartphone app isn’t a panacea solving all of the growing pains of mass transit. It’s not light rail and it’s not a West End streetcar, neither of which is on the way. But when the bus comes, and it’ll be nice to have a schedule in the palm of your hand.

10 Comments on this post:

By: spooky24 on 5/23/12 at 5:35

Chicago's 'Windy City' label comes from all the hot air (lies) it politicians are famous for. As Nashville strives to model itself after that way of thinking one wonders why someone who can afford a smartphone would need the damn bus in the first place.


By: MusicCity615 on 5/23/12 at 7:38

Nashville needs light rail / streetcars NOW.

Divert a portion of the BILLIONS of dollars that go to creating more roads and use it to implement a true mass transit system for Nashville consisting of more buses, light rail / streetcars.

By: catenarykat on 5/23/12 at 8:05

Spooky24: You don't get out much, do you?

By: NewYorker1 on 5/23/12 at 8:19

And we wonder why our federal government is borrowing so money from China. It's useless projects like this that is killing us. What's wrong with people waiting for the bus until it arrives? I promise you they will be alright. It will not kill them.

By: Ask01 on 5/24/12 at 4:30

Public transporttion is an important issue not only for tourists but for the working people of the city.

The more citizens utilizing public transportation, the less congestion on downtown streets. Additionally, pollution will be lowered and perhaps most importantly, fewer cases of road rage occur.

However, considering the current fiasco facing our city stemming from accepting federal money with strings attached, I urge extreme caution before we blindly walk into another financial quagmire.

MusicCity615 has a point. Building a truly dependable, reliable, efficient mass transit system would be best for the city. The upside is, with such a system, there would be no need for an 'app' to check on the bus. Oh. one more point, if you have questions, there is a telephone number to call if questions arise.

It seems we have forgotten cautionary tales about being wary of those bearing gifts.

By: subcinco on 5/24/12 at 6:19

Personally, I'm looking forward to this. It's a simple thing that we should have. And as a trasit rider and smart phone user I can assure you it will make the trip easier and more convenient.

By: Rocket99 on 5/24/12 at 7:02

In the current day of the smart phone, we don't want to have to go to a web site and download a map/schedule to try and read and figure out where the bus should be. We also don't want to have to remember what the MTA bus phone number is to call and find out where the #15 is. Have you ever called the number? They have to get on the radio and figure out which #21 on the route they need to talk to and then figure out if it's ahead or behind schedule.

We do need this app though. If used properly, it would allow the commuters to be able to know better when and where to catch the next bus. Concerning MTA, there's nothing worse than getting to a bus stop only to find out that the time on your watch is off and you have to wait 15 - 60 minutes for the next bus because you just missed it by 3 minutes.

I also love how people who have never used Metro public transit other than for special events if at all, have all the answers. Until you have used it and depend on it getting you somewhere on time, you need to be careful what you spew forth.

By: JeffF on 5/24/12 at 3:54

I am still trying to figure out how spending billions of dollars on hundreds of roads is worse than spending the same figure on just one or two rail or trolley lines? Yes you have theoretical polution issues, but man are fixed rail systems inefficient and uneffective.

But train fan boys really like them so YES lets spend billions on a couple of rail lines and let the massive majority of people that live and work or school nowhere near those two or 3 sets of steel rails go without!

Really, has no one ever noticed how crazy the thought of an inflexible rail system really is? Fans are willing to ignore trillions in dollars of in-place road infrastructure that additional buses can drive on today and tomorrow in order to spend outrageous amounts of money on a system that they think is cute or sexy or European or whatever?

Please, name one thing that a train can do better, easier, more effectively, and more efficiently than a bus system. The answer "spend other people's money" is already assumed.

By: catenarykat on 5/24/12 at 5:59

Rocket99 made an astute observation: The vast majority of people who complain about our transit system have never tried it. If they would, they'd be pleasantly surprised.

By: Ask01 on 5/24/12 at 8:10

Just to clarify, I do use MTA. I ride every day. Well, OK Monday through Friday.

While we don't yet match the level of most European transit systems, Nashville is progressing and I have few complaints.

I do have concerns, however, about the term "federal money" most especially as Mayor Dean has cited programs originated with federal money we must now continue, or pay back if allowed to expire, as partial justification for a tax increase.

It seems a prudent move to ask questions first, since our local leaders(?) won't volunteer the information or elaborate on the consequences until they can benefit.

Beware of politicians bearing gifts.