WASHINGTON — It’s getting easier to take the bus across the area, as more bus providers add ways to track buses in real time.
The Potomac and Rappahannock Transit Commission, which serves Prince William County and the Manassas area with local and commuter buses, announced this week that riders can now use an app to get predictions of when a bus will arrive that reflect what is really happening on the ground, rather than just relying on a schedule.
“Now, a rider can sit at the kitchen table in the morning or at the office in the afternoon and check the app before heading out to catch the bus, knowing they won’t waste time by being too early or miss their ride,” PRTC interim Executive Director Eric Marx said in a statement.
The Moovit app, the first to include the real-time PRTC bus predictions, can also alert riders when it is time to get off. PRTC plans to offer the real-time data to other mobile apps too.
A number of apps incorporate several of the other services across the area, but most of the transit agencies have their own tracking website riders can bookmark on a phone or computer.
Loudoun County Transit launched its bus tracking system last year to show real-time predictions for its commuter buses about 30 minutes out from arrival.
In Fairfax County, Fairfax Connector expects to launch a new real-time bus prediction system for public testing within a few weeks. Fairfax Connector operates local and express bus services across the county, including many connections to Metro stations. The bus service has already been testing the program behind the scenes.
The Fairfax County system is similar to Metro’s busETA, which lets Metrobus riders check for their buses’ arrival times.
Montgomery County’s Ride On bus system has had its own real-time tracking system since 2012. Riders can also register for automated prediction notifications at the times of day they usually take the bus to get a text or email as the bus is approaching.
Frederick County, Maryland’s local and commuter TransIT Services will also text riders predictions, in addition to the agency’s online bus-tracking service and the RouteShout real-time tracking app. TransIT has a separate app that allows riders who choose to buy bus passes directly through their cellphones.
DASH Bus, in Alexandria, has its own DASH Tracker, which riders can check online or on their phones.
Some other bus systems in the area use Nextbus, a tracking service Metro had used until moving to its own system about a year ago.
The City of Fairfax CUE buses, Prince George’s County’s TheBus and the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland in the Laurel area are among the systems riders can find on the Nextbus website or in apps that tap into their systems.
While Maryland’s MTA does not have a public tracking system for its commuter buses, there is real-time tracking for the agency’s local buses, light rail, Baltimore Metro Subway and MARC trains.
In Virginia, VRE has real-time train tracking too.