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'God bless the bus': Moovit app provides transit users with bus schedules

A bus drives down Colombia Street on Oct. 3, 2022.

While Chapel Hill Transit buses are left without real-time tracking systems, the Moovit app is one resource that can provide users with information on bus lines and times. 

The Moovit app launched in 2012 and has expanded to serve over 1.5 billion people across 112 countries, according to Moovit’s website.

Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield said Moovit has been on his phone for several years. Moovit includes other transit options, like Uber and Lyft, in the app so users have multiple transportation options, he added. Walking directions are also integrated into the app. 

Litchfield said that for about 15 years, Chapel Hill Transit has been able to provide real-time information on bus locations with the NextBus app. However, real-time information has not been available for the last year and a half because of issues with the app's modems.

“When you have the real-time information, you are not necessarily looking at the schedule to determine whether a bus is early or late — you know it’s coming, you know it's on the way,” he said.

Instead of using real-time information, Moovit and other transit apps rely on static bus schedules — not exact bus locations — to generate user transit information, Litchfield said.

He said not having the option to provide community members with this information can make it challenging for some people to utilize public transportation.

UNC senior Lily Vance, who lives in Carrboro, said she likes to take the bus everywhere and that she knows the schedule like the back of her hand. She said she uses apps like Google Maps and TransLoc to find bus schedules.

Vance said it was helpful when the apps provided real-time tracking information, which let users see if buses were running on schedule. She said it has become difficult for people to use the app without this information.

However, Vance said not having real-time information has not stopped her from being able to use these apps to navigate public transit.

“For the most part, like 95 percent of the time, buses are usually on time,” she said.

UNC senior Analise Griffiths, who lives off-campus in Chapel Hill, said most days she rides the bus to go to class. She added that she likes that public transit is free for everybody, unlike the bus systems she used while living in Philadelphia.

“God bless the bus, otherwise, I would not be able to get to class,” she said.

Griffiths said having access to live bus tracking information would be helpful for everyone that uses public transit.

Litchfield said that Chapel Hill Transit is working to restore this feature for its buses and bring back live bus tracking before the next school year.

“Most of our customers are not used to having to use paper schedules and rely on those schedules to get them to and from where they need to go,” he said.

He said having this feature in apps makes it harder for Chapel Hill Transit to provide information on delays and detours. Instead, if there is a delay or detour that impacts bus schedules, Chapel Hill Transit posts updates on social media.

Although transit systems have operated for years without real-time information, access to this information has become a part of the transportation culture, Litchfield said.

“It's really hard not to have that and it certainly impacts and influences people’s choices,” he said.


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