Metro begins testing real-time bus arrival system

These three screen grabs from an iPhone show how to access real-time bus arrival info on a cell phone.

I know that many readers of The Source have been asking about this recently, so here’s some good news: Metro today began testing a real-time bus arrival system called Nextrip.

It’s important to consider that this is a test, with Metro tech staffers monitoring some users to see how the system is working. Nonetheless, the system is out there and online, so I wanted Source readers to know about it.

Metro customers can access the real-time data on the Metro website or on their cell phones, which is especially convenient. It’s also possible to get the information via text message if you don’t want to fuss with the Internet.

For those unfamiliar with real-time bus arrival systems, it’s pretty simple. Let’s say you’re at the bus stop at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and New Hampshire and want to know when the next Line 180 bus is going to arrive. The real-time system will tell you how many minutes until the 180 shows up and how long until other bus lines serving the same stop also arrive.

Pretty neat, eh? It’s a lot better than trying to download a pdf timetable onto a cellphone and trying to find when the bus is scheduled to arrive, which in the real world is not always the same as when the bus actually arrives.

Testing will be ongoing for a while. But it’s very good news that Metro is close to rolling out the system. The effort began last March when Metro invited vendors to submit bids to install a real-time system. Then in September, Metro’s Board of Directors selected NextBus as the vendor and awarded them a $1.65-million contract, with the aim of going live in early 2011.

Enjoy the real-time info and let us know how it works. The screen grab below from the Metro Nextrip website shows the various ways you can let Metro know how the system is working. We’ll also make sure that any comments left on The Source are forwarded to Metro’s tech squad.

Categories: Technology

Tagged as: , ,

50 replies

  1. Hi Lam,
    I read the text messaging page, and it links to where I could get the bus stops, but that page says to use google maps. I did find a master list somewhere in HTML format, but now wouldn’t remember where. But I have been able to get trip information by putting in the streets, e.g. Desoto&Ventura and it does return the results by asking which bus if multiple, and so forth. But even then just me trying it out for the first time was a chore, giving it commands and it not recognizing them. I tried metro to metrola to some I found in a list of commands for metro I found somewhere linked from that nexttrip page.

    Like

  2. I just got around to reading this. It’s a great start on a more sophisticated version that will undoubtedly tie into GPS capabilities on smart phones. It’s important to note Next Bus doesn’t work yet for rail lines (why, I don’t know), although it does for the Metro Orange Line.

    First of all, it appears that the Metro Web site has combined the Trip Planner and Next Bus functions into the same link from the home page. Makes sense and saves space on the home page, but you need to know that or poke around a bit to find Next Bus.

    In both cases, I’ve learned to use the simplified version for my iPhone (Next Bus calls it the “ADA Version;” Trip Planner calls it “Simple”) because they load faster. Also, if you have an iPhone, it’s easier to do you what I’m going to suggest in Safari on your computer and then synch that between your computer and iPhone.

    Since, like any people who use the same Metro bus or rail stop, this is my workaround to shorten the time needed to use either Trip Planner or, now, Next Bus.

    In the case of Trip Planner, what I need to know most of the time is when the next Gold Line leaves from Highland Park, either northbound or southbound. When you plug in a route that doesn’t involve more than one bus or train, Trip Planner gives you the entire schedule from Point A to Point B. In my case, I plug in leave Highland Park south to Union Station, weekday, and I get the complete schedule for the day. I make a bookmark of that and put it in a folder marked “Gold Line.” Then I do the same thing for weekend and make a new bookmark. Then I create a bookmark for Gold Line Northbound weekday and another for Gold Line weekend. (I often leave to go home from the Del Mar Station, so I’ve also added bookmarks for the southbound trips weekend and weekday. That puts six bookmarks in one folder, so I can easily find the appropriate route I want).

    The process is similar for Next Bus. For me, it means finding the 256 bus north from my nearest stop by using the longer version (find your bus, find your street), noting the stop number, then make a bookmark and put it in a folder marked Next Bus. Two things I like about Next Bus: the bus stop number is the same, no matter the line using that stop and (2) in addition to the bus you requested, the system gives you every bus leaving from that stop. Moreover, the system automatically refreshes whenever you reopen the bookmark (you can hit refresh if you’re not sure).

    Like

  3. Hello Peeps.

    Knowing when the next bus is scheduled to arrive is of little comfort. Afterall, if yourinformation shows it arriving in 30 minutes and you need to get somewhere or make a connection before then, what do you do? My point is that this ystem helps no one except Metro to know how well the schedule is operating. You cannot hurry up the bus or change the schedule in any way. You still have to wait for it to arrive, and if it does not get to you when your info says it should, then you are upset with the bus operator and there goes the argument. There is an old saying: Buses don’t wait for people; people wait for buses. Give yourelf enough time to account for bus breakdowns, traffic condition, and other occurence that may affect the bus’s arrival and you schedule. As someone with many years of all sides of the issue, your apps will notget you to work, or home, or to that important any sooner. Your good planning will.

    Like

  4. To add to my previous comment. A better system would be what was in operation during the first years of Rapid Bus. A real time arrival time for buses located at the stations. All pasengers, including those without iphones, like me and those who cannot afford one, can get the same information. It may be surprising many of you to know that most people who are regular bus and train rider don’t have these pocket devices, and rely on the services provided by metro through their customer service department. So let’s thing out of the box. Technology is fine, but the bus system is considered basic service, and and deigned to accomodate all riders. The system must fulfill that need in the best way possible. This NextBus app, only services SOME riders, and mostly those who have options in using public transit. When we design a system that helps everyone, then we are on our way.

    Like

    • Paul, the response from riders using NexTrip has been overwhelmingly positive. I know that personally as a bus rider the simple fact of knowing when your bus will actually come as opposed when it’s scheduled to come is a great way to put my mind at ease – even if the bus is late. I can at least have the peace of mind of knowing realistically how late I’ll be.

      Also: you do not need an smartphone (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.) to take advantage of NexTrip. If you have a standard mobile phone with texting capabilities you can get real time arrival information, here’s a link to the instructions: http://www.metro.net/service/nextrip/textsms/

      Even if you don’t have a texting plan, if your mobile device is capable of making calls you can dial 511, say “nextrip” and follow the voice prompts to get real time arrival information.

      FYI: Metro’s most recent rider survey reveals that 75% of riders are equipped with some sort of mobile device, and 50% of those are equipped with smartphones.

      Fred Camino
      Contributor, The Source

      Like