NextBus System Well Worth a Try
One thing my colleagues Mark Berman and Greg Gaudio noticed at Metrobus stops last week as we were spot checking the performance of Metro's new real-time arrival predictor: There appeared to be no one else using the service.
At least, we couldn't spot anyone holding up a cellphone and saying, "NextBus" into it, or doing anything with a mobile device other than listening to music or tapping out messages. Our spot check of the NextBus system's performance showed us some of the problems you need to be aware of -- buses arriving earlier than predicted, for example -- but it also showed how useful it can be.
I found that the more I used either the phone-in service (202-637-7000) or the mobile Web site, the easier it got, and I expect to be using it a lot to plan transit trips.
Look here to see our Commuter page review of our experiences. You'll find some suggestions for how to get the most out of NextBus and what problems you might encounter.
Suzanne Peck, an assistant general manager with Metro, told me that NextBus accuracy is at 90 percent in the early going -- it just started last month -- and she's looking at improvements in hardware, software and training that will bring that up.
Couple of cases: We found that not all the bus stops have the red, white and blue NextBus shield, which has the phone-in number and the bus stop ID number. They were missing at the Silver Spring bus bays, at a couple of bus bays at Prince George's Plaza and along Wisconsin Avenue, for example. Peck said that Metro employees are making a sweep in search of such places and hope to have either shields or decals up at all the stops in a couple of weeks.
Sometimes, a bus will disappear from the monitoring system. You might be looking at the mobile Web site and it's telling you the next bus won't be there for half an hour. Then you look up and there's a bus arriving. This can happen if the driver makes a mistake and fails to turn on the GPS, or somehow turns it off during the trip. Peck said that drivers will be reminded how to deal with the technology.
You may very well want to avoid walking to or standing at bus stops during this heatwave, but once the temps drop a little, try NextBus to plan a trip. With all the Metrorail problems we've been having, this is a good time to do a little experimenting with the buses.
August 10, 2009; 1:12 PM ET
Categories: Metro , transit | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus, NextBus
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