Spend less time at the bus stop

NextBus sign

A new sign, providing bus stop ID number and Next Bus options, has been added at every CyRide stop. Photo by Bob Elbert.

CyRide picked the right time of year to launch a service that tracks its bus locations and predicts arrival times at subsequent bus stops. Since Jan. 31, Next Bus service has been available at no cost to users via a phone, mobile device or internet-connected computer. All CyRide routes are included in the service.

The would-be rider specifies a route and provides the bus stop he or she is at – every CyRide stop now has a four-digit number. Next Bus uses global positioning satellites, computer modeling and cellular technology to track vehicles and almost instantly provide the arrival times for the next three buses. This estimate is updated continually.

So, riders hoping to avoid an extended chilly (or sweltering) wait at their CyRide stop can get up-to-the-minute information about when the next few buses will arrive. If you're already at your stop – and you own a smart phone -- you also have the option of scanning a QR (Quick Response) matrix on the bus stop sign to receive bus arrival information.

GSB funded

Responding to student requests, in 2011 the Government of the Student Body agreed to provide $450,000 in student fees over three years to provide the service. This includes installing satellite tracking devices in 84 CyRide buses and an annual $80,000 user fee to the Next Bus company.

"Everything I've heard has been positive," said GSB president Jared Knight. "The service is getting widespread use and it's helping a lot of students get to the bus on time -- which has been especially helpful in the cold weather!"

Sign up for personalized alerts

An advanced feature of Next Bus allows users to request personalized alerts about schedule changes due to weather or traffic delays or road construction. For example, an ISU employee who routinely boards the 5:21 p.m. bus at the end of the work day could sign up to receive a daily alert when the bus is five minutes away – whether that turns out to be a 5:21 bus or a 5:29 bus that day.

CyRide director Sheri Kyras said her staff has used Next Bus internally since September, prior to its public release. Dispatchers use it to track buses that fall behind schedule and alert drivers to make up time. Schedulers are able to review a 90-minute route in five minutes to confirm that posted schedules are (or are not) accurate.

"It's been very, very helpful to us in our work," she said. Previously, that task required CyRide employees in cars cruising around town to monitor bus movement.

Kyras said one more piece of the service will come later this spring. Four LED digital signs will be installed at four heavily used transfer locations on campus, providing bus arrival information for passengers waiting at these bus stops. The four locations are Student Services Building, and Friley, Kildee and Bessey halls.

Next Bus, based in the Oakland, Calif., suburb of Emeryville, has more than 110 clients in the United States and Canada, including university and community transit programs, hospitals and tourist resorts.