30% of buses 6+ minutes off schedule
Metro this morning took the second major step of its initiative to make information on service disruptions, routes and timetables public and available in digital form, by adding API methods for buses. Rail info has been provided since August.
Among other possibilities, the realtime bus positions, which indicate how many minutes ahead or behind of schedule a bus is running, offer a window into performance. At 10:30 this morning, there were 266 buses navigating the region, and a quarter were running 7 minutes or more behind. (Ten percent were at least 13 minutes late.) Ten percent were two minutes early, and 18 percent were right on the money, within a minute of schedule.
One 32 bus to Friendship Heights was 38 minutes late, and another on the N8 Glover Park line was 39 minute early. An S4 Federal Triangle bus was a half hour early, and an S80 to Metro Park was 35 minutes behind.
On the below map,
yellow green dots indicate a bus that is between five minutes early and five minutes late. Yellow indicates a bus 5 to 15 minutes outside target, and red is for the worst offenders.
Click a bar below to see a route's name. Bars on the left represent delays, while those extending to the right are early arrivals.
The initiative has been heralded by technologists and riders--among others, the Post's DC Rider app lets you use your cell phone to easily check when the next train is departing your station--but it's also a boon for Metro, enabling third-party developers to do work that Metro could not or would not do.
It can also be a means for holding Metro accountable, as in the above timeliness test and the Post's escalator performance widget.
"The organization does have a history of clamping down on data when it is used in ways that don't reflect favorably on certain groups within WMATA," WMATA chief enterprise architect Jamey Harvey said at a meeting last night.
The agency will hold a developers contest, awarding a fully-loaded SmarTrip card to the creator of an app that best helps handicapped riders navigate the system or that facilitates multimodal access. Since bikeshare program CapitalBikeshare also publishes extensive electronic data, for example, a developer could easily write a program to plot the quickest route from A to B using bike, rail and bus.
But the agency was slow to incorporate its data into a widely-used Google transit format, and arrival time calculations provided by Nextbus are not yet available.
Metro said the 14 API methods released have long been used internally--using the bus info released today to, among other things, detect bus bunching, when several buses arrive right behind one another--so it's about time they let the public see the information that makes riding easier and allow for free-market competition to bring the best products to consumers.
Here's to Metro for advancing this effort, and to hoping they continue.
"We have data feeds internally that if we put them out to the world people would be naughty with them," Harvey said.
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