Using MTA’s Bus Time in NYC


Visit on your mobile device or via sms on a feature phone to receive real-time MTA bus information.

Several months ago, the MTA released Bustime. It is amazing and will change how you use public transportation in the city. Bustime provides real-time location information for every nyc bus. Using GPS, you can view online (or via sms) exactly where each bus is at that current moment.

Why this is great:

  • You will know exactly when to leave your apartment to catch the bus with a minimal wait time
  • You can make a better judgement of taking the bus v. the train. If you see a bus is a stop away, you can wait for it. But if you see it is 2 miles away, you can take the train instead
  • No more standing in the pouring rain waiting for the bus
  • Being able to plan transfers better
  • Seeing other options if one bus is delayed
  • Knowing if you should wait for another bus if one is packed

This last point has been my favorite so far. If a bus pulls up that is standing room only, I can check bustime for the next one. If another bus is just a stop or two away, I will wait for that one. Chances are it is emptier and worth waiting the few minutes for.

The one issue I’ve discovered with this is that street traffic and bus traffic can be erratic. When judging when to meet your bus, you need to factor in stop lights and skipped stops. Sometimes that 2 stops away can mean 3 mins or 10 mins. If no one is waiting at those two stops, the bus will fly past. If they are crowded, it will take an extra minute or two. These are variable factors and you just have to keep them in mind when looking at the Bustime schedule.

Using Bus Time at a Bus Stop

Look at the bus stop information to find the Bus Stop Code. Use this code to get real-time bus gps information.

Look at the bus stop information to find the Bus Stop Code. Use this code to get real-time bus gps information.

There are several ways to look up bus information. You can enter the bus line (ie: M3, B103, Q34), which will show where buses are currently located all along the route. You can enter the intersection, which will show you the location of buses that stop near there. You can enter the bus stop code, which will give you the location of the exact bus for that exact direction. Depending on what you are trying to do, all are easy and helpful.

Entering the bus stop code is the quickest method of using bus time. Especially when looking it up via SMS on a ‘dumb’ phone. Since I still don’t have a smartphone, this is how I have been using bus time. It works great.

Simply look at the bus stop sign for the bus stop code and the number to send your text to. I added the phone number as a contact in my phone as “bustime”. This makes it really quick to look up stops.

Viewing Bustime results via SMS

Viewing Bustime results via SMS

Within a second or two, you will receive a text like the one pictured above. It will show you the location of any bus lines that stop at, or near by, that stop. This is especially helpful because I might take another bus line if I see it is arriving sooner.

Between looking up Bustime on my iTouch at home before leaving work then using my fliphone to look up Bustime while on the go, knowing real-time bus locations in the city has definitely improved my public transportation experience.


If you have thoughts on this and would like to discuss please use Twitter or send me an email.