Beacon Benchmark: Busing it around Bloomington

Note: Beacon Benchmark columns are a way for the B Square Beacon’s writer to give readers some regular behind-the-scenes insight into this website, which aims to serve some of the news and information needs of Bloomington, Indiana.  

Yesterday marked what I hope will be the start of a month of daily rides on a Bloomington Transit bus. What’s the occasion?

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A 31-day smart phone boarding pass purchased through Token Transit. Showing the BT driver this display, which includes some dynamic elements, gets a passenger onto the bus. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

For one thing, July 1 is the beginning of the month. It’s also the beginning of the state of Indiana’s fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30.

So it’s a good time to start something.

Why start riding the bus every day? It is a fair question, especially because I can’t ride the bus every day in July. On the Fourth of July, BT bus service is not available.

I will need to find a different way to make my way out to the Monroe County fairgrounds on July 4, to watch the rodeo that’s being put on by the International Professional Rodeo Association.

Readers who are familiar with the BT system know there’s no bus stop at the fairgrounds. But a Route 4 bus will get you to the intersection of SR 45 and Curry Pike.

From there, it would be about a mile and a half to the fairgrounds. That distance I can cover in just a few minutes by bicycle—if I load my two-wheeler into one of the racks on the front of the bus. That’s something I’ll have to try on a different day from the Fourth.

Those front racks do get some use by BT passengers. Yesterday, two cyclists pressed them into service at the BT transit center, when they boarded the same Route 3 bus that I took. They got off at Eastland Plaza, where the bus stops before heading south on College Mall Road.

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Annotated screen shot of smartphone screen using the tracking app from This was the return trip from Bloomington Hardware. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

I stayed on board a little longer, until just after we turned east onto Covenanter Drive. I had an errand to run at Bloomington Hardware. The stops, one on each side of Covenanter, are about 150 yards east of the hardware store.

Route 3 loops back around on itself, so I was able to catch my ride back into downtown on the same bus, with the same driver, that dropped me near the hardware store. The round trip took maybe 50 minutes.

Two pieces of tech made my trip easier.

One is a smartphone app called DoubleMap. In realtime, the app shows riders where their bus is on a map, so they don’t have to wonder, and so they can make sure they’re ready to board when it arrives at their stop.

The second app was new starting yesterday—the TokenTransit smartphone ticket. I wanted to try out TokenTransit, so I bought a 31-day pass that will display on my smartphone. Yesterday the BT driver looked at my smartphone, confirmed it was legit—there are dynamic elements—and let me board. (You can read more about that in previous Beacon coverage of TokenTransit.)

So for the next 30 days, I can ride the bus anytime I have my smartphone with me, which is always. This works out OK, because I invested $30 just to try out the app.

Over the next 30 days, I aim to get my money’s worth.