Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Adventures with the Sunday SMART bus schedule

As a part of the Royal Oak Jaycees, I had the opportunity to run a project that we termed the "SMART Bus Pub Crawl" just this past Sunday. Awesome, right!? A huge shout-out to Beth & Fred at SMART for supplying us with service maps, some really cool new SMART bike maps, SMART pens & digital screen cleaners. So great!

Here's our group reading their maps like champs outside Woodward Avenue Brewers (aka the WAB) in Ferndale:

We started our trip on the southbound Woodward 460 leaving at 13 & Woodward at 1:05pm heading to downtown Ferndale. A fellow bus rider was at the stop, enjoying some Sunday funday Natty Light, and calling me 'cowgirl'. Perfection. And welcome to the our transit world, pals! 

On our trip to downtown Royal Oak from the WAB to Blackfinn, Google Maps transit told me that the Woodward 450 would take us through downtown Royal Oak. I know that's the case after a certain time during the weekday evenings, so I didn't even question it. As the bus driver didn't take the turn down Washington and continued down Woodward, it was very clear that this wasn't the case for Sunday afternoons. I went to ask the bus driver what the deal was and he laughed loudly & heartily. "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at Google Maps. I get these questions EVERY single Sunday" and proceeded in showing me the schedule. So, we had an unscheduled 10 minute walk into downtown Royal Oak from 11 mile & Woodward. Transit lessons on a beautiful fall day. Otherwise, the buses ran pretty much on schedule, a great time was had by all, and people were hopefully encouraged to explore our region via public transit! 

But the question at hand: what's the answer for better transit communication in the age of smartphones? Apps? A required check-in of any schedule changes with Google Maps? Schedules via text? Pocket-sized paper schedules based on the routes? We definitely need some improvements to this area - especially given the  widespread miscommunication around the weekend schedules.  Thoughts or other ideas that have worked well in other areas?


  1. I am glad to know that most of your transit experience on Sunday was successful. I will, however, check on the Google Maps issue! To give your faithful followers a heads up, we are looking to launch several new technologies (to SMART) in 2014 that will make riding the bus easier. You can look forward to a new mobile website, SMART apps and a much improved real-time arrival technology called Bus Tracker. Bus Tracker will provide riders with the ACTUAL arrival time at the bus stop, instead of the scheduled time. And, we will be installing cameras on our entire fleet. These projects are all grant funded and unfortunately can not be used to add service. The technology improvements will give riders the comfort of knowing WHEN the bus will arrive and hopefully an increased sense of safety and security.

    We appreciate your loyalty and riding SMART!

    1. Hi Beth - this is some GREAT info and really exciting to hear. Thanks for taking the time to share with us and we can't wait to see how these tech improvements work!