BMTC has invested a lot of time and money in the ITS system to make taking the bus easy. So last Sunday, I decided to see how much the ITS app (iOS and Android) and the passenger information system at the bus stations were useful. My test comprised of making five trips from my home in North Bangalore to Yeshwanthpur bus station, Kempegowda bus station, South End Circle, and back home.
First, the things that work. If you already know the route number and bus stop, the app is good in tracking buses in real-time.
When I got ready to leave home, the app showed no buses were currently plying. Around 15 minutes later, a bus turned up on the app. I left my house for the bus stop when the ETA was 5 minutes, and the bus reached only 2 minutes later than the ETA.
For regular commuters, this can cut down on waiting time. ITS is more accurate than Google Maps which uses bus schedules. If I’d followed Google Maps, my wait for the bus would have been 20 minutes longer.
The app also works well when you want to check buses arriving at a bus stop, and the corresponding ETA. It also works well enough when you know the initial and final stops, and a direct bus connects them. The app shows you a list of buses for the next one hour and the corresponding ETA.
So what are the downsides?
The app is less useful if you don’t know the nearest bus stop. A feature that lists nearby bus stops is confusing. When I tried it, it presented me a list of 22 bus stops. This expects the user to know the right bus stop for his journey.
The ITS app also doesn’t offer you walking directions to a stop. This can be confusing since all stops are not marked by BMTC. On one trip, I could not find the stop and ended up flagging the bus in the middle of the road. Google Maps provides a better experience in this case. You enter your destination, and once you choose a bus, it directs you to the appropriate stop.
For trips where you need to change buses, the ITS app shows you where you need to change buses. It works well enough for the first leg. but for the second leg, the ETA doesn’t take into account travel time for the first leg.
The backend also seems unreliable at times. On two days, the BMTC app would not connect to the server between 7 am and 9 am. Sometimes the buses disappear when you refresh for ETA, and re-appear when you hit it again.
In two instances, I came across a bus that was not shown on the app.
A flagship feature of ITS is the Public Information System. In my test, the PIS screens were disconnected at Yeshwanthpur and Kempegowda bus stations. Others have also reported that the PIS wasn’t working at Shanthinagar bus station. The PIS is useful for passengers who don’t have access to a smartphone or don’t know how to use the app.
One minor issue that could impact usability on iOS — the app restarts when you switch to another app. The Android version works fine.
In summary, ITS app features such as real-time bus tracking are very useful, but issues with server reliability and usability of the app prevent it from realising its potential.