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Now You Can Check Estimated MetroBus Arrival Times

September 26, 2013 Featured, Public Transit 10 Comments

There’s nothing worse than wondering if your bus is on time or running behind. Now we can check to see!

Here’s a recent Metro press release:

Metro transit customers asked for newer technology to help them track MetroBus arrival times and now it is here. When Proposition A passed, Metro promised to use those funds to build a better transit experience. The first phase of technology advances to keep MetroBus customers better informed about bus stop arrivals is now available on www.metrostlouis.org.

“We are really excited to be able to bring this new technology to our customers, but we won’t stop there,” said Ray Friem, Metro Chief Operating Officer Transit. “In the next year, we hope to roll out the cell phone application. That will mean you can stand at your bus stop, punch in the stop number on your smart phone and find out when to expect your bus.”

Here’s how the new online technology works. Go to the Metro website, look for the Plan Your Trip area near the top right of the screen and select Metro Trip Planner. Then there are two choices.
1. Use the left side of the screen to use trip planner the way you always have, or
2. Use the map to click on your departure location. A box will appear and allow you to click on “Find nearby stops.” From there you can:

• Click on the yellow or blue circle where you want to catch the bus. Yellow circles show “time points.” Operators do not leave early from a time point. The blue circle shows a regular bus stop. Please remember to arrive at your stop at least five minutes early. Depending on traffic conditions, a bus may arrive and leave early from a bus stop that is not a time point. After you have selected your preferred stop:
• Click on “Get next departures.” Included in the information box is the route, the direction (Dir), scheduled arrival time (Sch) and estimated arrival time (Est) if the estimated arrival time is available.
• The majority of our MetroBus vehicles are now equipped with automatic vehicle location devices (AVL) and that allows us to track where the buses are at all times. Eventually, AVLs will be installed on every vehicle in our MetroBus fleet. If the MetroBus vehicle that is headed to your stop is AVL equipped, the Estimated Arrival column will show a time. When you compare Scheduled Time (Sch) to the Estimated time (Est) you will know if the bus is running early, on time or behind schedule.
• If the MetroBus does not yet have AVL, then the Estimated Arrival column will display ‘NA’ for “not available.”
Customers who need assistance planning their trips, may call 314-231-2345 in Missouri or 618-271-2345 in Illinois Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

The site is easy to use at home/work on a computer, laptop, or tablet. No mobile optimized site or app yet.

Example of scheduled versus estimated times, click image for Metro's Trip Planner
Example of scheduled versus estimated times, click image for Metro’s Trip Planner

It is easiest to look up times based on a bus stop number, so I’ve made note of the stop numbers near me at 16th @ Olive:

  • Eastbound (South): #15146
  • Westbound (North): #2605

To go west on the #10 I want Metro’s northbound route. Sounds confusing but it makes sense when you look at the route map. I still need to look up a few others on Washington and on 14th.

Eventually Metro will have the technology in place to show time until the next few buses, like this example from Chicago.
Eventually Metro will have the technology in place to show time until the next few buses, like this example from Chicago.

Once the information is available at shelters I’ll be really excited. I’m very glad Metro is making progress.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. Scott Jones says:

    This is great. The real-time AVL is super helpful. I also really like the led bus time screens (as many bus riders don’t have smart phones).

  2. ScottF says:

    This is an excellent addition. I have used nextbus in Toronto, and it was extremely useful, especially for buses that come infrequently.

    Do you know if Metro will make the raw data available so that 3rd party developers can develop applications? I don’t know why they wouldn’t do that, but I have asked Metro and not received a response. If they would release the data, I’m sure a smart phone app would show up quickly.

    • Matt says:

      Yes, Metro will be sharing the data with third party developers including Google Transit. That will be in effect in 2014, likely by Spring. Also, look for take-one instructional trip planner cards on all buses next week.

  3. The Transit Tracking system I use in Chicago currently is the RedEye app. And really, it’s one of my top five most-used apps! You should download it, Steve, and see how it compares and how Metro’s could be better.

    You just find your route number, then click on the stop location, and it shows you what routes are coming to that stop (not just the one you clicked) and in how many minutes. You can even click the arrival times for individual buses and it’ll bring you to a map which shows where that particular bus is currently at.

    One thing I really like is that you can save preferred routes. So, for instance, the buses I’d most likely take to-and-from work (and, yes, my favorite bar) are saved in a separate, easily-accessed tab.

    Since the train/bus system is much more expansive/regular in Chicago, it doesn’t bother including arrival times for trains/buses more than 20 minutes away. The St. Louis system, however, probably requires it.

  4. Michael Bierman says:

    I love the idea of real-time bus tracking but it has to work for the riders and this needs improvement. First, if you’re out and about you’re likely using your phone to get this information. The site should show a simplified mobile version immediately. On the full site, when you get to “next departure” you have to enter a stop number (What’s that? I had no idea they existed.) or you can also enter an address (What the address at Grand and Arsenal? I haven’t a clue.) I’d guess most people know their line number and intersections only. That should be an option. So I backed up and went to route schedules, navigated to Soulard 30 Northbound but couldn’t figure out how to find next departures from there. When I clicked the next departures blue bar below I was taken right back to the beginning. Very frustrating. So then I tried clicking on the map in the next departures. This worked reasonably well but everything was tiny and zooming in isn’t nearly as easy as it should be. I kept clicking the Southbound stop over and over until I hit just the right spot for Northbound. I touched the screen in the wrong place at one point and was taken to a map view of all of Missouri. I shouldn’t even be able to do that. Again, the real-time tracking is fantastic (and could truly lead me to use the busses more than I do) but it needs to be made more accessible to be useful.

    • michael says:

      I agree Michael. St Louis Metro’s web site requires to much information data to fill in just to find a next bus arrival. Their site is extremely un intuitive. It does not pick up address and in the drop down menus of business’s. there are many multiple repeat listings Such as the bread company south! Metro makes it really hard to deal with their clumsy back ward systems. And..not every one has a smart phone! Why in New York City they have an actual schedule of the current times at EVERY single stop. Now how is THAT for service??

  5. Brett Lord-Castillo says:

    A public API for the AVL feeds would be really nice…. (and I think I know the people who can help make that happen)

  6. Chris Naffziger says:

    I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but how many of Metro Bus’s riders have smartphones, or even computers with internet connections at home?

  7. mike says:

    Notice it says, eventually!! And Chicago has it NOW!! So what is metro problem!!??


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