Real-time bus arrival displays and lighting to improve travel experience on campus

Photo of an operational real-time bus arrival display at Observatory Drive and Walnut Street on the UW-Madison campus.

One-third of campus bus shelters are now equipped with real-time bus arrival displays and lights to improve the ease and safety of campus bus travel. The solar-powered displays and lights are the result of a student-led collaboration with the UW Office of Sustainability, Transportation Services, and the College of Engineering.  

Over the next two years, additional shelters will also receive solar panels, arrival displays, and lighting. To learn more about the new displays, keep reading!

Image of real-time bus arrival display showing arrival times for Madison Metro transit buses on the UW-Madison campus.
The real-time arrival displays show how much time is left until the next bus or park and ride shuttle is due to arrive. Arrival times are also shown for up to three additional buses due to arrive within the hour.

How the real-time bus arrival displays work

Real-time bus arrival information can take some of the uncertainty out of campus bus travel.

The real-time arrival displays show how much time is left until the next campus bus, city bus, or park and ride shuttle is due to arrive at the stop. Arrival times are also shown for up to three additional buses due to arrive within the hour. Arrival times are shown during regular service hours.

The display will also notify riders during times when there are no routes serving the stop.

Image of real-time bus arrival display showing a section of a route that is detoured.
If there is a detour, a description of the detour may appear on the lower third of the arrival display.


If Madison Metro has entered detour information for a bus route into their data feed, the display will describe the area subject to detour on the bottom of the screen. If you find a detour message for an area along your route, go to, click “detours,” and locate your route to find a map of alternate stop locations. Alternatively, call Metro Transit customer service at (608) 266-4466.


Emergency information affecting campus travel can also be displayed on the screens. For example, the displays may notify riders that buses have unexpectedly detoured from a stop due to inclement weather or a sudden roadway closure. 

Information about emergencies affecting campus travel is also available on the Transportation Services Twitter/X feed: UWMadisonTS.

Technical difficulties 

Special messages may be displayed if the unit temporarily goes offline. In most cases, the displays “fix” themselves in about a minute as the networks refresh themselves. Transportation Services monitors display activity and will address any malfunctioning equipment.

Image of a real-time bus arrival display showing a message that service is currently not available at the bus stop.
The arrival display will notify riders if there are no buses currently serving a stop.

Other bus tracking options

There is more than one way to track a bus. We recommend Google Maps, Moovit, or Transit apps for planning bus routes and tracking real-time arrival information on a mobile device.

Google Maps, Moovit, and Transit are designed by third-party developers and are not designed, sold, supported, or licensed by UW Transportation Services or the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Not all applications reflect detours around road construction or special events.

Behind the scenes

Where does the real-time arrival information come from?

The transit operator—in this case, Madison Metro Transit—controls the schedule information that feeds into the real-time arrival displays. Schedule data for transit services lives in “the cloud” in GTFS files. “GTFS” stands for General Transit Feed Specifications. Those files contain all the details about routes and schedules.

App developers use GTFS data to publish route recommendations or real-time arrival information. For example, Google Maps uses GTFS feeds to make transit recommendations. Transportation Services draws from the same GTFS feed used by Google Maps and Metro Transit to create customized arrival displays for the UW campus. More information on Madison Metro’s GTFS feed is available at

Related information

Campus bus information (Routes 80, 81, 82, and 84)

Employee and student bus passes

Madison Metro Transit website

— by Lauren Hawley