Flint, MI—Flint Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) riders can now plan their trips through a smartphone app.

The app, called Moovit, asks riders to type in their destination and returns suggested bus routes—and the nearest stop to catch them—based on the rider’s current location. 

It also offers a view of any Flint MTA fixed route bus line, its schedule, service alerts and real-time locations of MTA buses.

“It’s a trip planning app,” explained Paul Mattern, the chief development officer for Flint MTA. “So it provides you directions using public transit to get to your destinations.”

Mattern demonstrated the app’s use on his cellphone, offering a route back to the Flint MTA headquarters from a Meijer location.

Typing in a destination gives back instructions: walk to this specific stop, wait for this bus line, get on, ride for this many stops, get off at this specific stop nearest to your final destination.

But a rider can also search by nearby stop, which gives all routes to that stop and real-time information on when the next bus will be there.

Mattern, who originally posed the app in 2019, said that while the MTA has spent the last few years refining the Moovit app for Flint riders, he knows it isn’t yet perfect.

For one thing, he said, it relies on each day’s bus drivers or MTA administrators to ensure that real-time GPS information is fed into the app for users. To ensure that data is available, bus drivers must log into and out of the platform during each shift.

That’s why the app has taken so much time to roll out, he said, because the education and training period, along with COVID-19, slowed a lot of the process. Still, he’s seen lots of improvement in staff adoption since the app’s early days of testing.

“The great thing right now is that the lunch relief drivers did log the driver out and log the other [driver] in,” Mattern said, gesturing to one of his desk’s two computer screens. It showed a static map of Flint, across which small green bus icons were moving in real time. “That was one of our biggest hang-ups.”

Mattern said his goal is to continue to improve the app’s user experience as more users provide the MTA with feedback

For now, he is working with Moovit’s Israel-based developer to remove some unnecessary payment prompts and said he eventually hopes to incorporate an in-app fare payment feature, as well.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....