MCAT Real-Time Bus Information

Access the Real-Time Trip Planner

What is Real-Time Bus Information?

Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) installed Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) technology onboard the entire Transit/Trolley fleet in 2019. This technology is now available to passengers for tracking the movement of buses and trolleys while proceeding along their route (i.e., in real-time).

How does the MCAT Real-Time Bus Information really work?

The two critical elements for real-time bus information are accurate location coordinates for each bus stop in the transit system, and accurate route schedule information for MCAT bus and trolley routes. Combining these two elements, the AVL system tracks buses along their routes, and when a route falls behind and is running late, the real-time software system calculates a predictive arrival time for each bus stop along the route.

If the route is on schedule, the real-time software system provides the arrival time as indicated in the route schedule. Since not every stop is identified on the printed route schedules, passengers benefit from knowing the real-time bus arrival for their specific bus stops.

Why is Real-Time Bus Arrival Information important to MCAT passengers?

Each MCAT bus route has a route schedule with pre-defined arrival and departure times. However,  bus arrival/departure times vary day-to-day depending upon weather, traffic conditions, and construction detours. The main passenger complaints are “their bus did not arrive as scheduled.”   The real-time bus arrival information system allows MCAT passengers to make informed decisions in real-time on any given day, as to when to arrive at their boarding location, and thereby enhance their bus ride experience.

How do passenger access Real-time Information for MCAT buses and trolleys?

These are the steps for accessing the MCAT real-time bus information:

  1. Download the mystop software application on your mobile device. The mystop software application can be accessed using the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
  2. Identify the specific bus stop (or station) where you board your MCAT bus.
  3. Establish a service text alert or email notification for bus arrivals at a boarding location, and the preferred timeframe for advance notification. For instance, if it takes 10 minutes to travel to your bus stop or transit station, you may want the notification alert 15 or 20 minutes in advance of the arrival time for your bus, so that you have plenty of time to travel to your boarding location.

Can a passenger access MCAT Real-Time Information at MCAT bus stops?

The answer is yes, and several methods are available to access this information:

  1. For those with a Quick Response (QR) code reader, the passenger can use their QR code reader, to scan the bus stop’s discrete QR code. Once the QR code is scanned it will provide the arrival time for each bus servicing that stop to your mobile device.
  2. Use the mystop software application in combination with the bus stop ID number (this is provided at each bus stop). The software application will then indicate the arrival time for each bus servicing that bus stop.
  3. During normal business hours, passengers can also call MCAT to ascertain the arrival of buses in real-time.

How does the AVL system benefit passengers while they are traveling on MCAT buses?

The new onboard technology includes an infotainment system that alerts passengers to the next three bus stops along the route, so that passengers are informed as to their upcoming destination bus stop, including the arrival time at their stop. This information is visually displayed, and an automated system provides audible stop announcements as well.  This new system also provides important information about points of interest along each bus route including libraries, hospitals, shopping destinations, business complexes, etc.

How does the new AVL and related technology systems benefit passengers at transit stations and major transfer points?

Dynamic message signs at transit stations and major transfer points provide the arrival time for each bus servicing that location.  Passengers benefit from real-time bus arrival information, as travel conditions vary day-to-day.   

What are some other features for the new MCAT AVL/Real-Time Information systems?

The new technology allows MCAT to provide service alerts to passengers for upcoming detours, the suspension of service for a tropical storm event, upcoming service modifications, etc. A service alert is provided using several methods:

  1. Text or email to a personal device.
  2. Wayside signage at transit stations/major transfer points.
  3. Onboard transit/trolley vehicles using the infotainment system.

How does a passenger benefit from both the MCAT Mobile Ticketing and AVL/Real-Time Information system?

  1. Passengers can now utilize their smartphone personal device to:
    1. Purchase their fare and use their smartphone as their fare media.
    2. Use their smartphone to receive advance text alerts providing, the arrival time for their bus in real-time.
    3. The smartphone device then becomes the device that serves as fare media and real-time alerts for the passenger’s MCAT bus arrival time.
  2. Moving forward, both MCAT Mobile Ticketing and Real-time Bus Information are available on a shared software platform to make customer access as convenient as possible.

What are some other infrastructure and technology enhancements benefit MCAT customers?

  1. All MCAT bus stops are bring upgraded to include concrete boarding pads and accessibility features, with passenger seating at bus stops. All buses and trolleys include bike racks for intermodal travel.
  2. Transit Stations: All three MCAT transit stations have been refreshed to provide a fresh, clean appearance with preventive maintenance treatments that extends the useful life for these assets.
  3. The new QUANTUM fully automated wheelchair securement system is now available on many transit buses to ensure complete safety during transport and expedite passenger boarding and alighting.
  4. All Handy Bus fleet vehicles now have Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) that provide trip manifest and wayfinding assistance for improved service delivery operations. Over time, these MDTs will also provide automated reporting functionality.
  5. The Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology provides electronic notifications (i.e., calls, emails, text messages) for Handy Bus and Longboat Key Shuttle clients regarding their scheduled trips and real-time alerts for bus arrival times.