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Cap Metro Goes Mobile, But Not In Real Time

Capital Metro is rolling out new signage with QR codes. But real time bus information won't be ready until 2014.
Photo by Wells Dunbar, KUT News
Capital Metro is rolling out new signage with QR codes. But real time bus information won't be ready until 2014.

New signs are in place at Capital Metro bus stops around town. But instead of a list of times, they feature an identification number for that specific stop, and information on how to learn more about the next bus arrival. The signs include a quick response (QR) code , which people can scan with their smartphones to open a mobile website containing upcoming arrival times for that individual spot.

It’s a technological step forward for Capital Metro, which is in the process of installing site-specific signs at each of its 2,700 bus stops around Austin.

However, the times Capital Metro displays are the set, static times the transportation agency displays in their schedule books. Real-time information on bus arrivals and departures are still some two years away, the agency says.

Erica McKewan, a communications specialist for Capital Metro, says a couple of factors are at play. “Some of it has been budgetary,” she says. But she also says Capital Metro is waiting for their radio provider, the Lower Colorado River Authority, to update their system. “They’re in the process to upgrade their entire system to a digital format,” McKewan says, which will let Capital Metro track their busses with greater specificity.

Bus riders that rely on Google Transit to plot their trips were frustrated in recent days, as the Internet search giant was unable to process transit queries and plan trips. McKewan says “there were a few technical glitches” uploading Capital Metro’s recently retooled schedules, but says they corrected the problem last week. She said delays in Google’s indexing process added a few days, but as of yesterday, Google was able to plan Capital Metro trips again.

The transportation authority is still rolling out the new signage, with plans to be “100 percent installed” by the end of February – just in time for South by Southwest visitors. “We’re laying the groundwork for better and new ways of providing information in the future.”

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.