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Published: Monday, 8/18/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

TARTA riders hail year-old Web program

Tracker alerts passengers with up-to-date bus locations, arrival

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Shalene Houke of East Toledo has used the app and plans to download it again after a reset of her smart phone. Shalene Houke of East Toledo has used the app and plans to download it again after a reset of her smart phone.
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When the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority rolled out its TARTA Tracker Web site, Janie and Jamie Jennings signed up quickly.

“It tells us exactly where the bus is, when it’s going to be there, and when I have to leave the house,” Janie Jennings said Friday while waiting for a bus at Park station in downtown Toledo.

“We had it on our laptop before we had it on our phones,” the East Toledo woman added.

But Leah McCoy, a West Toledoan waiting for the No. 17 Lagrange Street bus that afternoon, hadn’t heard of TARTA Tracker, and she was a bit worried because while she had arrived at Park several minutes before her bus’ scheduled stop, she still hadn’t seen it.

Ms. McCoy said she would use TARTA Tracker on her smart phone “if it was accurate,” because the timetables aren’t especially reliable.

“It sounds like a good idea,” she said.

The computerized system that offers users up-to-date bus locations, forecast times for upcoming stops, and even text alerts if a selected route is having problems will reach its one-year mark online late next month. It cost $914,284 for development and installation by Digital Recorders Inc. of Durham, N.C.

Transit authority officials say they’ve gotten nothing but positive response to TARTA Tracker, and they’re planning to install some upgrades to the desktop version next month as well as introduce an overhauled main Web site for the Toledo bus system.

“It’s a real good tool for our riders,” said Steve Atkinson, the agency’s marketing director. “They’re independent, and it empowers them to find out their bus schedules and status without having to call in.”

Through July, the mobile version of TARTA Tracker had received 114,000 visits from almost 45,000 unique visitors, according to a transit authority report. The system’s availability also took a 10 percent bite out of calls to the agency’s switchboard seeking bus schedule or status information.

And even riders who don’t have portable Internet access benefit from TARTA Tracker, Mr. Atkinson said, because transit authority operators use it to get updates faster than they could when dispatchers had to radio bus drivers to get location reports for them.

Atiauna Brooks of North Toledo is one of TARTA Tracker’s newer fans — she began using it about two months ago when she started commuting to a new job.

“It’s very useful. Sometimes it can be a little off, but when I look at it, I know to be out there at this time,” she said.

Jamie and Janie Jennings of East Toledo are enthusiastic users of the year-old TARTA bus app. Jamie and Janie Jennings of East Toledo are enthusiastic users of the year-old TARTA bus app.
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Nick Warner, a Point Place resident, said he’d probably use the site “if it was compatible with a Windows phone.”

Mr. Atkinson said that shouldn’t be an issue, because TARTA Tracker works with all Internet browsers — technically, it’s a Web site, and not an app.

“If they do have a browser that’s working, they should not have an issue with that URL [Web site address],” the TARTA spokesman said.

The upcoming site revisions will offer “better adaptability to various-size screens — it will scale much better,” Mr. Atkinson said.

Hart Associates, a transit authority consultant, is designing the changes based on results from a “very brief survey” of bus riders, he said.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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