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The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Real-time tracking by phone, Wi-Fi coming to Macon Transit Authority buses

Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom
Robert Lee Cohen, 87, takes the MTA paratransit bus to a dialysis center in east Macon three times weekly. Cohen moved to Macon from Buffalo, New York, in 2021. “Here you got to have a car to get around,” Cohen said. The new technology will call Cohen before the MTA bus arrives so he doesn’t have to wait in the elements. “It would make things easier,” Cohen said of the bus tracking system.

Macon Transit Authority customers soon will no longer have to wonder when their buses will arrive.

Starting in December, riders will be able to track buses in real time using their phones. New equipment also will provide wireless internet for riders.

The ability to track buses is made possible through the MTA’s contract with Trip Spark, an Iowa-based transportation technology company the authority entered into agreements with earlier this year. The authority was awarded a $1.3 million Federal Transit Administration grant to cover the cost, MTA CEO Craig Ross said.

“We had been looking at better ways to be able to run our system,” Ross said of the contract with Trip Spark. “It’s going to make everything so much more organized in the way we do business.”

The technology will allow riders to track buses through a mobile app or by texting or calling a phone number and entering in the numeric code corresponding to their bus stop, he said.

“That gives us a person that can’t see or has a hard time seeing an indication of where the bus is at that certain time,” Ross said. “It’ll help people in bad weather, if it’s cold, or if it’s real hot, instead of going out to the bus stop, calling dispatch … or they have to wait a long time, they can look it up on their laptop or their phone.”

New equipment on the buses also will automatically announce Americans with Disabilities Act stops along each route and automatically count passengers, relieving drivers of those responsibilities.

MTA Transit Planner Mark Strozier said the new technology will roll out first on paratransit buses, which MTA is in the process of painting maroon and white. A pilot phase for the upgraded bus tracking system is set to launch for paratransit routes next week.

Paratransit routes serve riders with disabilities who are unable to use the MTA’s fixed routes. Paratransit bus riders must register for the service and request rides 24 hours in advance.

Paratransit customers will have their own “passenger portal” through which they can reserve rides, Strozier said.

“As the bus is getting, say, five minutes away from picking up Ms. Smith, it’ll notify her … right at five minutes out, or three minutes out, or however we set the system up,” he said.

Robert Lee Cohen, 87, waited outside of the dialysis center in east Macon where he receives three treatments weekly. Cohen  moved to Macon from Buffalo, New York, in 2021, and rides the MTA paratransit bus to appointments.

“Here you got to have a car to get around,” Cohen said.

The new technology will call Cohen’s cell phone before the MTA bus arrives so he doesn’t have to wait too long in the elements.

Getting the heads up by phone, “would make things easier,” Cohen said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect dollar amount for the Federal Transit Administration grant. The grant totaled $1.3 million.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].

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