Bus Tracker useful on South Side, but danger lurks when it fails

Here’s a guest post from WoodlawnWonder, a fellow ChicagoNow blogger over at I Hate my Developer.

The CTA Bus Tracker has made my commuting much easier since its inception.  Waiting too long in soggy, snowy, windy or wet weather is a thing of the past. 

bus tracker.jpg

Yet all is not perfect for those of us who use the Bus Tracker.

Occasionally the Bus Tracker will either work sporadically or just be flat out wrong estimating when the bus arrives at your particular destination.  In my experience this usually happens on late night runs and also on the weekend.

While waiting a few extra minutes for a bus sounds benign enough, try caring about that standing near the corner of 63rd and Wentworth at 2 AM.

More importantly, it seems like standing in or by CTA bus shelters is getting to be a dangerous thing.

A few weeks ago I was waiting for a south bound #28 Stony Island bus and left my home when it was 8 minutes away from my stop.

Those 8 minutes turned into 15 that subsequently turned into 24. 

All the while I stood with the neighborhood “corner crew” who shot dice directly behind me.

These days, standing in front of, near or in the vicinity of a group of young people may have dire and deadly consequences. 

So imagine the sense of dread I felt with every passing minute and every passing car.

While the CTA can’t be held responsible what may or may not happen in or near its shelters, it would be nice if the Bus Tracker’s accuracy improved so I could reduce my exposure to a potentially violent situation.


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  • Like a good and obedient South Sider, the author completely skips over the people *actually* responsible for the increase in violence -- like the mayor who refuses to operate the police department at authorized strength, the washed-up Fed and clout clowns running the CPD, and the CTA leadership that puts safety last -- to instead ineffectually complain about the Bus Tracker.

    Here's to another 100 years of one-party rule...

  • In reply to darkwing:

    None of that was the point of his piece, but I'm sure you feel better, having called him a name. Because it's way more important to ineffectually complain about the mayor and administration than to point out that the inaccuracy of the tracker can have real-world consequences on the ground.

  • In reply to BobS:

    I'm not sure what your personal definition of "ineffectual" is, but when the mayoral race is incumbent-free for the first time in 20+ years and aldermen are resigning in droves, I don't quite think it applies.

    You're failing to grasp the pointlessness of the piece. There are any number of rational solutions to the author's problem -- buying a car, moving out of a failed neighborhood, commuting during daylight hours -- all of which are variations on a central theme: distancing oneself from a potentially violent situation. The author's response -- mentally composing a blog post while waiting to be picked up and/or knifed -- is not rational.

  • In reply to darkwing:


    Your comment's influence is as vast and wide as his post is small and ineffectual.

    His post about transit issues on a transit blog was a waste of time, but your diversionary comment that he didn't waste space on a transit blog discussing the issue that you care about shows your superior perception.

    And you're right! When he needs to go somewhere at 2 a.m., he should be going to a car dealer or a realtor's office. They'll be there for him!

    And his budget be damned; you've pointed out what a priority this is for him!

    How is it that people who hide behind pseudonyms always manage to pack so many salient points in such a small space?

  • In reply to BobS:

    Are you coming to a point, "Bob", or are you only interested in histrionics?

  • In reply to darkwing:

    If that's all you've got, I accept your concession.

  • In reply to darkwing:

    Who knew a bus tracker post would generate such interesting conversations?

    Actually folks---and I think I wrote this---the CTA bus tracker is a good thing. In my opinion, it's the best public transit innovation ever. I love it.

    My point is that when the tracker says the bus in 8 minutes away from your stop and continues to display that reading, it shouldn't actually arrive 24 minutes later.

    @MK, yes I used the tracker while waiting for the bus. The tracker never displayed the bus as delayed nor did it change from the 8 minute reading. Sorry if I didn't make that clear.

    Even if the bus is late for a legitimate reason, most people don't care why the bus is late, all they know is that it's late.

    My bottom line is that bus tracker accuracy is one of the factors that could determine me traveling to my destination or winding up as a news story.

    Obediently yours,


  • In reply to darkwing:

    People who use the Bus Tracker know that, when a bus is delayed, the page displays DELAYED.

  • In reply to darkwing:

    I guess Rusty didn't come over here from the old site, but he often claimed that the real point of the Bus Tracker wasn't to let us know when the buses were coming but to give the CTA the ability to adjust schedules, compensate for delays, and eliminate bunching. But if you're reading this, Rusty, yesterday I waited half an hour for a southbound 147 in the morning, only to see four arrive within three minutes. The evening commute was even worse. I don't think the CTA is doing what you thought they would.

    As for WoodlawnWonder's observation -- I live near the very last stop at the north end of the Damen route, and have occasionally been kicked off the bus three stops early by a driver only to watch him pull up the empty bus outside the McDonald's and go in for a snack. I've also been on buses where the driver left the bus at a stop to go into a nearby convenience store. The Tracker may be very accurate, but the driver irresponsible.

  • It seems like WoodlawnWonder took the appropriate steps to minimize his exposure at the bus stop, albeit with mixed results. It's a great use for an **accurate** bus tracker system.

  • Maybe that's the question to ask CTA -- but one would have to phrase it by providing the date, time of day, bus route, direction and location. I do see my #11 or #50 display as "delayed" in the bustracker every so often. The question is whether the delay is due to a McDonald's run (?), traffic, mechanical issue, or a forced slowdown bc the operator is running ahead of schedule so they go very slow on their route or hang at a given stop til the clock catches up with where they are supposed to be on their schedule.

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