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MBTA Brings Real-Time Info to 18 High-Ridership Bus Stops

Posted on February 24, 2020

Solar-powered E Ink signs provide stop-specific real-time info to bus customers outside of major hubs

A bus E Ink sign at the Harvard Square @ Garden Street stop in Cambridge
An E Ink sign at the Harvard Square @ Garden Street bus stop in Cambridge.

Today, the MBTA launched a first-of-its-kind pilot that brings real-time bus information beyond major transit hubs, to individual bus stops. The solar-powered electronic ink (E Ink) signs, which went live today, are located at 18 bus stops in several Boston neighborhoods as well as stops in Chelsea, Everett, Cambridge, Watertown, and Belmont. Each sign provides stop-specific information, including bus arrival times, service alerts, and nearby modes or routes. The signs can also display information in the event that snow or other weather-related circumstances impact service.  

“Almost a third of our customers use MBTA buses on a daily basis. They deserve the same quality of real-time information as our subway and commuter rail customers,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “The new E Ink signs are a first step to providing real-time information to even more customers in the future.”

The MBTA’s bus network spans more than 50 cities and towns, and is comprised of over 7,500 individual bus stops. The vast majority of stops have no direct connection to power, which creates a significant challenge to providing real-time information at bus stops. Recognizing that real-time information is among the most frequently requested amenities at bus stops, this pilot’s goal is to better understand whether this technology is a viable solution for delivering real-time information at bus stops on a larger scale. 

The signs are powered entirely by solar energy, displaying real-time information through a software application built in-house by the MBTA’s Customer Technology Department. The signs are located at 18 high-ridership stops that were individually screened for sufficient solar exposure. 

This pilot builds on the success of a previous effort to test several types of E Ink signs along the D Branch of the Green Line. Under that 2017 initiative, signs were monitored for performance, durability, and customer value. Based on the results of that program, the MBTA initiated a new procurement to deploy E Ink signs, which led to the selection of S&A Fleetwatch that installed the E Ink signs.  

Bus stops involved in the pilot can be found at mbta.com/EInkMap.

The E Ink pilot is a facet of the MBTA’s Better Bus Project, which is a major component of the MBTA’s efforts to improve bus service and the system as a whole. The Better Bus Project is a key component of the MBTA’s $8 billion, 5-year investment program with the goal of Building a Better T.

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