This morning, shortly after I reaffirmed my mayorship of RTC stop No. 1737 (yes, I made a Foursquare check-in for a bus stop, and will readily admit to being mayor of it), I decided to give the RTC’s vilified MyVegasBusStop mobile app a try. It has a cumulative score of two stars out of five in the Google Market, and nearly every user review of the app contains the word “useless.”
It’s not entirely useless. MyVegasBusStop allows you to report on the condition of RTC bus stops, many of which are in sad shape. If my photos and comments motivate RTC crews to replace missing trash cans and pressure-wash filthy sidewalks, then I’m all for it. But that’s all the app does—and it’s not even that easy to use.
The ability to report on the condition of bus stops is no small thing, but that said, this should be the smallest component of a full-bodied RTC mobile app, one that enables on-the-go trip planning, route maps and—oh, I dunno—actually tells you when the bus is supposed to show up in something approximating real time.
There are ways to get this information, but they’re not reliable or intuitive to use. Google Maps can provide you with an RTC trip plan if it’s given origin and destination points, but I doubt that Google staffers have ever rode Las Vegas’ buses—otherwise they’d know that walking a half-mile in August sun is not a wise idea, even if it saves 10 minutes. And Google Maps only knows what information RTC has provided about routing and scheduling; it can’t tell you exactly when the bus is due, or why a bus didn’t show up when it was supposed to.
RTC’s proprietary tools are even less dynamic. Sure, texting “rideRTC” and the stop number to 41411 gets you the next scheduled arrival time, but the information comes from the same static schedule RTC furnishes to Google. If a bus is pulled because of a mechanical failure or is delayed by aggressive drunks, RideRTC wouldn’t know anything about it. Dude, just tell us how the stop looks.
A useful mobile app is absolutely essential if the RTC wants to increase its ridership numbers. It’s tough to sell people on the utility and convenience of public transit if those elements are not in full and complete evidence the first time someone decides to leave their car at home. A mobile app could bring in curious newcomers—hey, everybody wants to see if their mobile apps actually work—and inspire loyalty in longtime riders. The question is whether RTC is willing to subsidize such an app, or—and this is a terrifying thought—if they even have enough money to replace those missing trash cans.
● I’d like to know why the RTC runs its oldest coaches on route 109 (Maryland Parkway), and why those coaches usually travel with armed security guards. But I don’t think I’d like the answer, so I won’t ask.
● I got on the Northbound Deuce last Saturday night, after a Scissor Sisters show. Here’s what I learned from that experience: to never, ever do that again. Even if the Deuce leaves 15 minutes before the Strip-Downtown Express—which this bus did—the traffic and constant stops slow what could be a 40-minute ride to an hour and 15 minutes. I watched as two SDX coaches passed us. And I called myself a brainless asshole, but that didn’t satisfy me. How could it?
● If you’re on Foursquare, check out my to-do list: “Las Vegas Transit Stops I Have Known.” Yep, there’s a lot of time to kill when you take the bus everywhere.