Pending Board approval, real-time information could arrive in early 2011

San Francisco Muni NextBus real-time information on an iPhone.

San Francisco Muni NextBus real-time information on an iPhone. Photo by Jamison Wieser via Flickr.

Next week a $1.65-million contract with NextBus, Inc. for a real-time bus arrival system goes in front of the Metro board for approval. If approved, Metro riders could be receiving real-time bus arrival information via text, cell phone, smartphone and web by early 2011.

NextBus currently provides its real-time services to over 60 transit agencies including San Francisco Muni and MBTA (Boston). Here’s a link to a run down of how the technology works.

In our Why You Ride survey series, we asked this open-ended question: “If you could make one change to improve your transit experience, what would it be?

24% of respondents answered with real-time arrival information.

Metro’s fleet is already equipped with GPS, but if approved NextBus will provide the predictive technology that will take the GPS data and extrapolate it to provide real-time arrival info to Metro customers. In other words, it answers that age-old transit query, “when’s the next bus coming?” with real-time precision.

In addition to having real-time info accessible by phone and web, the plan is to research additional information display mechanisms (station signage, kiosks, etc) with the intent of providing the information where customers need it most: on the street, waiting for their next bus.

The Board will vote on this issue at next Thursday’s Board Meeting. Here’s the Metro staff report on the real-time contract.

Previously on The Source:

6 replies

  1. It’s great to see that the procurement report mentions having an API that could be open to the public.

    One of the coolest tools I’ve seen mentioned on The Source is the web app that displayed incoming Chicago Transit Authority buses. It was built to make it easy for anyone to find arrival time info, and it even had a full-screen version and location functionality, making it easy for anyone to set up Next Bus displays (in their storefronts, their schools, wherever). It’d be great to see this show up in L.A. too!

  2. Alex,
    I’ve been fortunate to have lived in two NextBus cities – San Francisco and Boston – and have gone to school where NextBus was operating on the shuttle system – MIT. I think you’re going to like NextBus – is much, much more accurate than CTA – the CTA provider just uses average speed to do its calculations. From what I understand NextBus has a patent on an algorithm that uses location, time of day and day of week to use historical data to give very accurate predictions. NextBus also has several websites, mobile websites, GPS-enabled websites, is ADA-compliant (a blind classmate of mine used NextBus by using her JAWS screenreader) and has a host of different alarm features. You should go to their website – nextbus.com or their online newsletter to find out more. Kudos to LA Metro for moving forward with real-time information.

  3. […] Pending approval by its board of directors, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CA) may start offering real-time information to its riders early next year. LA Metro’s fleet is already equipped with GPS. The board is voting on a contract with NextBus to provide predictive technology to translate the GPS data into real-time arrival info. Writing in The Source, Fred Camino outlines Metro’s goals: “In addition to having real-time info accessible by phone and web, the plan is to research additional information display mechanisms (station signage, kiosks, etc) with the intent of providing the information where customers need it most: on the street, waiting for their next bus.” Link to full story in The Source. […]

  4. I was wondering how this technology can be applied for Rapid Transit Trains. Commuter trains tend to be predictable.