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Posted at 1:30 PM ET, 05/17/2010

NextBus accuracy slips, "ghost buses" explained

By Washington Post editors
LOCAL BLOG NETWORK

WMATA released NextBus accuracy statistics last week, and frequent users will not be surprised to find out that accuracy is not where it could be.

NextBus has predictions for only 78 percent of buses, far below the 92 percent target. The buses themselves are also not keeping to schedules particularly well, being "on time" about only 75 percent of the time, even with a generous on-time standard of up to 2 minutes early (which buses exceed almost 7 percent of the time) and 7 minutes late (which they exceed 18 percent of the time).

Bus manager Jack Requa provided some explanation for the "ghost buses" that riders widely reported: If a bus stands still for 2 minutes, the NextBus system stops showing that bus. It also removes the bus if it deviates more than 160 meters from the typical route, meaning that any reroutes generally result in a bus falling off NextBus's radar.

[Continue reading David Alpert's piece at Greater Greater Washington here].

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Washington Post editors  | May 17, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, transportation  
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Comments

As a former transit executive I know that systems are only as good as the people who manage them. I've used Nextbus in other cities, including San Francisco, and it works. When a system like Nextbus doesn't work it's because the driver isn't signing in or the manager's aren't managing. How can you tell when a bus is going to arrive if it's not on its assigned route. Silly story and bad journalism. Why not some questions about WMATA??

Posted by: transithappy | May 18, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

As a former transit executive I know that systems are only as good as the people who manage them. I've used Nextbus in other cities, including San Francisco, and it works. When a system like Nextbus doesn't work it's because the driver isn't signing in or the manager's aren't managing. How can you tell when a bus is going to arrive if it's not on its assigned route. Silly story and bad journalism. Why not some questions about WMATA??

Posted by: transithappy | May 18, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

What's silly about it? The premise of the story was to explain notable flaws in the NextBus system, not serve as some sort of expose into whatever you're inferring is going on with WMATA, which is, by the way, well investigated and documented.

You sound like a shill for NextBus. Own some stock in the company?

Posted by: AdmiralX | May 18, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

I see real potential in Nextbus, provided it works. Traffic is bad in our area, which makes keeping buses on a schedule difficult. Knowing when the bus will get there makes me willing to use the bus to get around even though I could drive.

On the surface, it seems like NextBus should be pretty idiot-proof. It's just reflecting reality (where is the bus) and applies a simple algorithm using past performance (how long will it take to get to your stop). The explanations from Mr. Requa seem like things that should be easily fixed, right? Oh, WMATA and the ATU are involved? Gosh, how much more money is that going to be? Wow. That's a lot of money.

Posted by: whiteoak999 | May 18, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I use NextBus all the time, I've really learned to plan my routes based on bus eta's and it can work really well. (should I go 14th, 16th, L2, L4 or Subway.) I try to have patience with a fairly new system, but when I come across a discrepancy I will sometimes question the driver. Most times there is a 'log-in' issue and the driver will seem surprised that someone has noticed. Having managed automated systems I'm taken aback that such a crucial step is left to human error. Seems to me logging in should be more automated as well, rather than left to a driver whose attention should be right focused elsewhere.

Posted by: LeastOfThese | May 24, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

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