It's an age-old question for transit riders: Where's my bus or train?
Posted schedules are only so much help when there's a last-minute cancellation because of weather, mechanical issues, or as has been the case quite often recently for the Regional Transportation District, a crippling driver shortage.
RTD's had the ability to email riders about real-time issues using a decades-old system meant for other uses. The agency has now launched a new one that will allow it to send out rider alerts in a more timely manner — and to more places.
Previously, alerts were primarily sent out via email and posted to RTD's website. Customer service professionals had to hand-write alerts based on information they pieced together from different back-end systems.
Now, staff can push out more consistently formatted messages much faster and in more granular detail, down to the stop, in some cases.
"I [publish] alerts in probably 30 seconds that used to take me five minutes," said Virginia Johnson, RTD's lead digital customer relations liaison. "That five minutes that used to take me to write an alert is an eternity when you're standing in the downtown loop wondering where your train is."
There's one omission though: RTD still doesn't have the ability to send text messages to passengers.
That often-requested feature will come in the next year or two, Johnson said. And the scrolling schedule signs at light rail stops don't have the ability to display real-time information.
Still, Johnson said the new system is a huge step forward for RTD.
"Six years ago we were screaming that we needed something like this," she said. "And we finally, finally have it."