CTA Bus Tracker yields a "modest" increase in ridership

New research is showing that providing real-time bus arrival information to transit riders will increase ridership for that transit agency – though just modestly – by about 2 percent.

Researchers in the June issue of Transportation Research Part C looked at CTA ridership numbers for select routes after the introduction of Bus Tracker and concluded that Bus Tracker certainly serves to retain existing passengers, and also attract new ones:

This finding suggests that marketing strategies for real-time information should be targeted not only to transit users but also to transit non-users in order to bring about larger increase in transit ridership. Furthermore, since one major purpose of providing real-time transit information is to increase transit mode share and attract transit non-users, greater effort is needed to promote this system among those transit non-users.

A summary of the study in The Atlantic notes that the study authors were able to control for “influential ridership factors like unemployment levels, gas prices, weather, transit service attributes, socioeconomic characteristics, and typical monthly fluctuations.”

Related to this story is this Xconomy report about how Google Transit is reshaping how we plan trips on public transportation. While Google doesn’t have real-time information, it does have the schedules for 475 transit agencies worldwide, and can map your trip for you and tell you fairly accurately how long it will take.

I use Google Transit exclusively when I have to go somewhere new on the CTA. Its margin of error on departure times is less than five minutes. But I don’t use it for that. I use it to determine how long it will take to get to my destination so I know what time I have to leave.

Now THAT is useful information.


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  • I needed some time to look over the linked articles, with the main questions being causation and control.

    The answer to both was that the study was based on the time when CTA was phasing in BusTracker, from 2008 to 2009. Hence, while it may be valid for before and after, I certainly wonder what the effect of the 2010 service cuts were, as well as the later availability via text.

    But, at least Chicago has it fully implemented, while NYC seems only now sporadically doing so.

  • Random question -- why is the old Tattler site still the top Google hit for "CTA Tattler".

  • Ha! Good question WestLooper. I don't pretend to know how Google's search algorithms work, but I suspect it's because the URL for the old site is simpler - just "ctatattler" - rather than the new URL, which include "chicagonow".

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Google has its secret algorithms, the only one publicly debated is the number of links to the site. In that wikipedia comes up near the top on a consistent basis, that doesn't say much for the Internet's user base.

    In that you got a .com instead of the typepad url might have something to do with it, as you note.

    Of course, you could be like Carole Brown and take down the substance. Or tell Danica Patrick that you aren't renewing the domain name. But maybe having the archive has its benefits.

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