Mind you, this is no revolutionary concept. Towns like Boston and D.C. have had it for a while.
But for Detroit, the idea of a bus having a GPS-- and the idea of riders using the text on their phone to find out when the bus is actually arriving -- is pretty darn good. It may not make up for a system that is still lacking, and has far too few buses, but it's something.
On Tuesday, Mayor David Bing announced the launching of the system known as "Text My Bus" for the Detroit Department of Transportation.
Under the system, a rider can text the street address or nearest intersection to 50464. After a couple more quick and simple steps, the system will text the closest bus stop and arrival time for the next bus.
Police Chief Ralph Godbee pointed out that this is a good public safety tool, particularly for students who rely on the bus system.
“By using their cell phones, students can now determine the best time to arrive at their bus stops, so they will not have to spend a lot of time waiting alone or standing in the cold," Godbee said in a statement. "They also can give more reliable information to teachers, parents and employers about their expected arrival time to work, school or home. “From a public safety standpoint, Text My Bus will assist us in creating a safer environment for our youth.”
Not everyone is terribly impressed.
Neil Greenberg, a local transportation guru, who follows closely local and national transit issues, told Deadline Detroit on Tuesday:
"I think it's great, but it's more perfume on the pig. It doesn't change the fact that the the system isn't operating reliably. It's a step in the right direction, but if a bus is only running once an hour, it's still not very convenient to use the system even if you know where that bus is."