For a number of years, the CTA has had schedules online for the 4 principal bus lines serving Evanston: Route 200 (Main Shuttle), Route 201 (Central/Ridge), Route 205 (Chicago/Golf), and Route 206 Evanston Circulator. Click any of the preceding links to go to the CTA page, see the route descriptions, and download a PDF of the schedule.
But as any experienced rider knows, sometimes the published schedules don't match reality. Traffic congestion, mechanical problems, or other issues can delay or alter the schedule. This can be frustrating. Standing outside a long time in lousy weather tends to discourage bus use.
To address this problem, plus leverage new GPS technology, over the past year the CTA has implemented its Bustracker system which lets anyone with Internet access see, in real time, where a bus is and how many minutes before it reaches your stop. Evanston routes, the highest-numbered on the CTA system, were among the last to get this service, but the CTA boasts that all routes with regularly-scheduled service are now on CTA Bus Tracker.
I tried it out this morning after my wife walked to Central Street, just missing the 201 to downtown Evanston, and called me to see when the next one would come. I was able to go online and give her information that turned out to be accurate. Not only that, once she got on the bus, I could follow its progress on an online map. Kind of cool.
Bustracker lets you time your departure for minimum time outdoors, and if you're already out and about, is really useful for riders with a PDA or smart phone with Internet access. For your convenience, here are the links:
The CTA Bustracker main page is the portal to the whole Bustracker system
The Estimated Arrival Time page has pull-down menus to select a route and stop
For those who have a text-only wireless device, or a device that isn't great at graphics, here are the links for specific Evanston routes:
Route 201 Bustracker
Route N201 (Night Owl) Bustracker
Route 200 Bustracker
Route 205 Bustracker
Route 206 Bustracker
Like many suburban residents I was never a big bus rider -- I tend to ride my bike around Evanston or dash in and out with a car -- but for a planned and scheduled trip, the CTA bus is a comfortable and pretty-dependable alternative for getting into and out of downtown Evanston. Instead of being frustrated at stop signs and traffic, you can spend quality time with a book, a newspaper, or your laptop or iPhone. If we're to continue to work to make this a more liveable city, we should use all the tools available to make buses part of our transportation mix. Bustracker is a small step towards making that easier.