The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) New York City Transit has unveiled a brand-new capacity tracking feature on the MYmta app that allows customers to track in real time the number of passengers on an arriving bus, enabling customers to maximize social distancing on public transit in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The innovative feature, currently being rolled out in a pilot across buses, enables customers to use their smartphones to know how many riders are on an arriving bus, coordinating with features that already track real-time bus locations and arrival times.
Customers who already have MYmta app installed, approximately 550,000 weekly users, will receive an automatic update so that they can use the new features. The revamped app is also available through the App Store and live on new.mta.info for those checking from a computer. It will be available in the Google Play Store from August.
“Our Customer Communications team really used their technological expertise to advance the app to now include passenger counts on much of the bus fleet at a time when our customers really need it,” said Sarah Meyer, Chief Customer Communication Officer of New York City Transit. “We will continue to expand our efforts with capacity tracking and other innovative approaches to provide an optimal customer experience.”
The app’s new features were primarily built in-house by MTA developers and staff led by NYCT Director of Customer Communications Joshua Gee and Chief Officer of Bus Technology Sunil Nair. They and their team, with an intimate understanding of the MTA bus system, helped bring the updates to successful completion. Cambridge Systematics, a technology company that specializes in transportation, also served as partners in the process.
“This is the first widescale deployment of real-time bus passenger counts in the country,” Nair said. “We are excited both for the great benefit to riders, and that this system was designed, integrated, and tested by an in-house MTA tech team.”
The real-time data collection is done via Automated Passenger Counter (APC) sensors. The sensors mounted above the doorway accurately count passengers boarding and alighting the bus by using a combination of infrared and 3D image pattern technologies. The system integrates with on-board GPS to link passenger data to vehicle location. Currently, the counters are on buses in all five boroughs, covering 40% of the bus fleet with plans to keep expanding.