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UTA to text bus information to riders

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority is testing out a new texting system that will inform commuters when their bus leaves from any given bus stop.

"People are always wondering, ‘OK, when is my bus going to get here,' and if you've just got to know, you'll be able to do that in the very near future," UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.

The texting system allows commuters to type in a number from a sign, with UTA texting back details of when the bus will arrive.

"All of our buses are equipped with GPS technology. We know where they are all the time," Carpenter said. "Basically, what this is, is taking that GPS technology that is already in place and passing that information along to the customer."

UTA has been testing out its text system in West Valley City along the bus rapid transit line known as MAX. Commuters are excited to be able to use the new system at any bus stop.

"It makes perfect sense," said bus passenger Jim Rose. "It's way more practical than having to call a phone and talk to someone."

"It would be really easy to know when the bus is coming, and so that way you won't be late to wherever you are going or when you need it," said bus passenger Emily Luther.

Several smartphone apps have been developed by commercial companies to track UTA buses, but the texting system could be used on any phone that texts. UTA said the program uses predictive technology, so the bus might not arrive and leave exactly on the minute it says on the phone, but it should be fairly close.

UTA said as more people become dependent on their phones to help them get around, the new texting system is the next logical step to give people information in the palm of their hand. It hopes to have the entire system ready to go later this year.

E-mail: rjeppesen@desnews.com