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.