App Takes Guesswork Out of Central Ohio Transit Authority Bus Arrivals

The Transit App will track buses at first, but COTA also plans to launch real-time information on its website and through Google’s trip planner.

by Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio / April 28, 2016

(TNS) -- Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) riders will be able to track when buses arrive and depart from stops in real-time starting next week.

The long-awaited technology will launch on smartphones through the Transit App on May 6.

“We are on the cusp of deploying real-time bus arrival information to COTA customers,” CEO Curtis Stitt told board members Wednesday.

COTA riders can use the app to plan trips and find stops, but they also will be able to see when the next bus will arrive and when the last bus departed. Bus icons will move along the map as well to show users where they are at a given time.

Launching real-time tracking has been difficult for COTA. The agency planned to have it in place years ago, but the real-time data was unreliable. Late last year it looked at alternatives to its existing plan but elected to stay the course with its contractor, the Trapeze Group, in part because of the time and cost to change directions.

Riders will need a smartphone to use the Transit App to track buses at first, but COTA still plans to launch real-time information on its website, cota.com, and through Google’s trip planner in the future, Stitt said.

The app is already available for download, but arrival and departure times are based on COTA’s schedules. Starting May 6, it will use a real-time GPS feed from COTA buses.

Users will be able to see a list of nearby bus lines based on their location, and the app will show a countdown of when each will arrive at the nearest stop. They also will be able to tap an individual stop to see real-time arrival information. The countdown will be marked with a radio-wave icon to show users the bus is being tracked in real-time.

Bus icons will also be shown moving on the map view, but locations could be off by more than a minute.

©2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.