Tuesday, March 3, 2009

petition to get nextbus up and running

(short version of this post: sign the petition insisting that nextbus is implemented on the wmata bus lines!)

if you're not familiar with nextbus, let me give you some quick background. nextbus is a service employed by many transit systems in the united states that allows bus riders to know exactly when a bus is going to arrive at a location. now, you might be thinking, "that's what schedules are for," but anyone who rides the buses in DC knows that they very often do not stick to the posted schedules.

this is the beauty of nextbus, or at least it will be. when fully implemented, the service will allow anyone with a computer or a smart phone to pull up a bus line (like the g8), select a stop (like 1st and rhode island nw), and find out when the next bus will show up (5 minutes? 20 minutes? never??!?) instead of standing out on the corner forever (in the cold, or rain) waiting for a bus that never seems to be coming, you'll be able to time when you leave the house so you can show up at the stop just before the bus gets there, saving you time and headache.

wmata even started using the service on an experimental basis on the 90s buses back in 2007. they abruptly pulled the plug on the experiment when someone decided that the service wasn't accurate enough. it's too bad, because the service was actually accurate enough to be worth using. it was far better than relying on the schedules that were never followed.

some folks realized that the service was still available, though. you just had to go through a back-door on the nextbus website to find it. unfortunately, after some publicity on new columbia heights and dcist, wmata and nextbus shut down the back door.

before the day was out, another back door was discovered. this time, it was publicized earlier today by greater greater washington. within hours, that back door was plugged as well.

it's clear that wmata and nextbus do not want the public to have access to this service until they believe it's ready to be released. the problem is that the timeframe that wmata initially proposed has not been followed. we, the bus riders of the washington, dc area have been waiting a long time for this service, and it seems like it's never coming.

so, today, new columbia heights has started a petition asking wmata and nextbus to get nextbus up and running as soon as possible. you can sign the petition here, and i strongly encourage you to do so!

wmata and nextbus need to know that there is a real clamoring for this service, and they need to realize that its implementation will only lead to increased revenue for them (since the bottom line is clearly the most important thing here, right?!?), as it will make catching a bus an easier task, leading more people sitting on the fence to realize that it's easy and cheap to catch the bus to get around town.

so click on that link and sign the petition! what are you waiting for!?


John Mitchell said...

Please participate in WMATA GM John Catoe's live chat today, and submit questions about NextBus ahead of time:


IMGoph said...

done and done, john! here's hoping he doesn't skirt the issue in his chat!

John Mitchell said...

Catoe's first response is on NextBus (I expect it will be his only one on this topic) underscores a basic failure to understand the development and deployment of technology in a society: "We can't release anything until it is perfect, because one mis-reported data point is as important as 100,000 accurrate ones." Is it really more important to have no complaints on NextBus than myriad complaints about the bus schedule? (Which surely under-represents the public's view, because really who bothers?)

But these asserted concerns are mere smokescreen. I firmly believe WMATA is deliberately lying about the real reason -- probably budgets and contracts. It's completely mendacious to hold up the sanctity of their complaint-handling process as a reason for anything. As if the problems of individual, inconvenienced riders have EVER had the "full and complete" attention of that organization!

As for the 18-month estimate, it's not "fairly accurrate" until we see the official launch. Here's a countdown clock to August 1, 2009: http://tinyurl.com/akm68w Shall we place bets on the actual go-live date?