It's been a month or so now since LCTA launched its online bus tracking system Bus Locator (click here to see it in actual action). How's it going? In my opinion, pretty good. But only insofar as a technical assessment is concerned. The fact is that since I've been working I've been tied up during bus-running hours and unable to actually get out and wait for a bus closing in at an actual bus stop for a 'real world test'.
Still I found the time to load up LCTA's web page on my desktop computer and waited until Route 1, Miners Mills, crossed the train tracks a few block down from me, according to the live map. Once so, I went outside and, sure enough, after just a few seconds, I watched it pass by on East Main Street exactly as expected.
Smartphone screen capture of LCTA's Bus Locator in action!
I'd say they got this thing down great. Note that the image above, while it is a screen capture from my Android smartphone, was taken by loading the standard LCTA web page in mobile Chrome. They do not yet offer a dedicated app for this service. However, while a little strained to do it, the service does work on a mobile phone this way just fine. All the Java or whatever scripting is being utilized works great and you can easily see buses moving on the screen with just a little pinching out to zoom the map in.
The technology is working great and we can sooner or later expect 'count down' clock apps for smartphones (that's me predicting that, not LCTA), which would be a natural extension to the live map inasmuch as the base technology is in place. The biggest problem I see when I actually pull the map up has nothing to do with the tracking or its presentation, but the simple sparsity of actual buses! Like it or not, it's time to get more buses running and at greater frequency. That Bus Locator has so little to work with is not LCTA's fault, it is ours - the people in general who do not demand or fund expansive bus systems. Yet.