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Apps / Transportation

Check for bus-crowding in Baltimore with a new Transit app feature

With newly-installed sensors on buses, the feature allows riders to view real-time occupancy levels of MODT MTA buses.

An MTA bus in Baltimore. (Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes, used under a Creative Commons license)
A new app feature is providing a look at bus-crowding in Baltimore.

The Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is now making real-time information available on the Transit app  regarding occupancy levels of buses. It gives residents a tool to help with planning a trip, and to potentially avoid being in tight quarters.

Officials said it’s a step to help riders feel safe as transit use increases, and comes amid an ongoing pandemic in which social distancing is recommended. Newly installed sensors on MDOT MTA buses provide live boarding counts, which MDOT MTA says update every 10-15 minutes.

On the Transit App, which is a public transit application available in multiple cities including Baltimore, users will be able to see bus occupancy under three categories:

  • Not Crowded, if up to 30% of bus capacity;
  • Some Crowding, between 30% and 75% of bus capacity; or
  • Crowded, if the bus is more than 75% full.

To determine the current crowding level on an approaching bus, users can tap their route line in the Transit App to allow the vehicle icon, which then displays the current crowding level on that bus.

“MDOT MTA is proud to deliver technology that will create an improved transit experience and give riders more choice in their trip planning decisions.” said MDOT MTA Administrator Holly Arnold. “This new bus crowding feature will be a valuable tool for those who want or need more space while traveling.”

It also arrives in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists are working to learn more about the Omicron variant after it was deemed a “variant of concern.” Three cases linked to the variant were discovered in the Baltimore area. About two-thirds of Baltimore City residents are fully vaccinated, according the city’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The bus-crowding info is one of a number of tech features that have been added in recent years for the bus system. Others include real-time bus tracking, mobile ticketing and transit performance.

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
Companies: Maryland Transit Administration

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