Metro McAllen launches mobile app

McALLEN — The city’s metro bus system launched its first mobile app Wednesday, an effort to improve rider accessibility and keep Metro McAllen on par with public transportation systems across the country.

Metro McAllen’s app is available through Ride Systems and uses GPS tracking to show riders the real-time location and estimated arrival of the city’s buses. The free Ride System app can be downloaded via App Store or Google Play.

“This app is about making us more efficient … it allows you to connect at the right time, the right location,” said McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez, who called Metro McAllen “one of the most successful (public transportation systems) in the region and possibly the state.”

The app has been in the works for more than a year, said Mario Delgado, director of transit and downtown services for the city, and its release coincides with the launch of free Wi-Fi on McAllen’s 15-bus fleet.

It will eventually feature a trip planner, which could be ready as early as next month. The city is making final tweaks to the feature’s beta version.

The Ride Systems app cost the city approximately $49,850, 80 percent of which was subsidized by federal grants and the remainder paid for by city funds, Delgado said.

The app is a reflection of increasing ridership, which has grown from 250,000 to 700,000 annual trips over the past decade, said Robert de León, business management analyst for the city.

“With having this device or this application, we’re hoping that with our continued outreach efforts, people become more familiar with the system and use it more,” said de León.

And with gas prices on the rise, the city is hopeful more first-time riders will turn to public transportation to get around, he added.

“Traffic is getting heavier and heavier,” Delgado said. “You can build so many roads, but ultimately, the way you can get people to and from efficiently is using high-occupancy vehicles, such as buses.”

The app’s launch is also part of the city’s effort to keep up with other cities’ bus systems, which rely on mobile apps to communicate information to riders.

“We have arrived,” Rodriguez said to city staff, as a bus rolled up to a stop across the street from city hall, city employees eagerly watching its arrival on their phone screens.