Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NetBus: the bus-goer “Waze”

Today I traveled to Tel Aviv on a public bus. “You rode on a bus???” you must be asking, “are you CRAZY?!” The answers are “yes”, and “no”. I did ride on a bus, and I am not crazy. True, most of the times I travel to Tel Aviv I use my own car. But the process has become quite unbearable, especially if I need to get somewhere during “rush hour”, which seems to be any time between 7:00am and 8:00pm. So rather than battle with other drivers on the road, hunt desperately for parking, and pay for expensive gasoline, I decided to take a bus.

When I talk to fellow drivers, they all seem to use Waze. Just in case you spent the last year on another planet – Waze is the “social” navigation mobile app that was recently acquired by Google for a whopping $1B. It uses real-time information collected from its users (i.e. other drivers) to offer navigation instructions based on up-to-the-minute traffic conditions.

Waze eliminates the “I am sure the other route would have gotten me there faster” thought - a common source for driver frustration.  No it couldn't have. At last you can rest assured there is no faster route than the Waze route…

But back to my bus adventure. If you ever took a bus, you are probably familiar with the “when’s the next bus coming” dilemma. You get to the bus station, and you start wondering: did you just miss the bus? And if so, when is the next one coming?

Granted, this dilemma can make a great conversation starter. Say you get to the bus station and you see a pretty girl standing there. You can immediately strike a conversation:

You: “How long have you been standing here?”
Pretty girl: “about 10min”
You: “have you seen by any chance bus number 149?”
Pretty girl: “no, I haven’t”
You: “which bus number are you waiting for?”
Pretty girl: “bus number 501”
You: “I see. So you are going to Tel Aviv, right?”
Pretty girl: “Yes, I need to get to the university. I have a biology class in 45min.”
You: “Biology? I LOVE biology...”

And so the conversation evolves and the next thing you know, you are married with two children…
But then again, you might be a bit more socially awkward. In that case you shall find yourself alone at the bus station, with lingering doubts and growing anxiety. The fear that you actually missed your bus, and the next one isn't coming will keep pounding in your head.
Enters NetBus – a new mobile app I just downloaded onto my iPhone. You launch the app, and it uses your location information to display nearby bus stations and bus routes. Click on a route – and lo and behold: it displays the time remaining till the next bus arrives. I tried it a couple of times today and it actually worked! It was nothing short of a miracle.
Gone are the days you had to wait anxiously at the bus station. Gone is the “have I missed the bus?” question. You now get real-time bus arrival information and can plan accordingly.  But what about that classic “conversation opener”? It will probably have to change slightly:
You: “How long have you been standing here?”
Pretty girl: “about 10min”
You: “which bus are you waiting for?”
Pretty girl: “bus number 501”
You: “Oh, it should arrive in 8 minutes and 48 seconds”
Pretty girl: “OMG! You are so smart! How did you do that?”
You: “Oh, it’s easy. Let’s have dinner tonight and I will tell you all about it…”

And on a bit more serious note:
Driving your car to Tel Aviv causes congestion, increases pollution and can be a nerve-wracking experience. Frankly, Tel Aviv isn't a big city, and once you get there you can reach most places by walking. Taking the bus to Tel Aviv also gives you some extra time to read, or watch interesting TED talks on YouTube. 
For a country of Israel size, we should all use more public transportation. I know, the “Light Rail” is light years away, and who knows if we’ll ever get a decent subway. But buses are here today. And perhaps NetBus can make them a bit friendlier – for the rest of us.  


  1. What is this "public transportation" of which you speak?

    - An American

  2. Wow, great information! Will try it out. I totally agree with your view. And if you want to know how the future will be in TA you should drop us a visit and join me on a "Matronit" ride. Operating for several weeks already. And.... it's still free!