MTA to offer tracking of buses via smartphone

Users of the Maryland Transit Administration's bus system will be able to track buses in their area via their smartphones and other mobile devices starting this fall, one of many changes announced Monday as part of the agency's multiyear bus improvement plan.

Riders will also see updated bus schedules, additional MTA supervisors showing up along bus routes and increased service to certain job centers, such as the rising Horseshoe Casino Baltimore on Russell Street.

The changes are part of the agency's Bus Network Improvement Project, which was launched last summer with the goal of improving service using the input of local residents. Changes under the program will be rolled out through next year, officials said.

"It's imperative that this system runs as efficiently and reliably as possible, and this comprehensive review will help us achieve that goal," said Robert Smith, the MTA's administrator and CEO, in a statement. "We will continue to work closely with riders, residents, businesses, elected officials, civic leaders and transit advocates to complete the Bus Network Improvement Project."

The initiative is part of Gov. Martin O'Malley's goal of doubling transit ridership in the state by 2020, and a response to riders' complaints that buses in the city and county are often late and sometimes never show up.

A final project report was meant to be released in April but was delayed. The changes announced Monday are the first under the stalled program to be made public.

Officials said updated bus schedules, a major component of the project, will be released Aug. 24. One change will realign the No. 51 line to service the casino. In February, a new route will service a planned Amazon distribution center in the city.

Also starting next month, the MTA will launch a pilot program intended to improve efficiency by better positioning stops, including by eliminating some. The pilot program will be tested on four local bus lines: No. 50, No. 53, No. 56 and No. 59.

The real-time bus tracking system will be available to riders in the fall, at, and will be similar to the real-time light rail tracker launched in May.

The local bus system carries an average of 223,183 riders per weekday, the MTA said. The system has 57 routes.

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