Auditing D.C. Metro's New Bus Prediction Technology

Regular bus riders know how integral an accurate real-time bus arrival system can be to the experience of bus transit. D.C. Metro just made a switch in technology, and Greater Greater Washington evaluated the results (so far).

April 26, 2016, 1:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


D.C. Metro Bus

Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock

Tracy Hadden Loh reports on the results of an audit by Greater Greater Washington staff members of the new bus arrival estimation system at work for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

WMATA implemented the new bus estimation system, BusETA, earlier this month, replacing the NextBus system it had operated for seven years previously. Hadden Loh sums up the audit thusly: " Overall, the system performed well enough, but buses sometimes came earlier than predicted, and "ghost buses" are still real."

The audit revealed some of the tendencies of the new system, including several instances of buses arriving before the predicted arrival time. As Hadden Loh explains, "this is a major problem, because when you miss a bus by only one or two minutes, you have to wait the entire headway of the bus line for the next one, which is the worst-case delay scenario."

The audit's final verdict, however, is that BusETA's use of the open source OneBusAway project, also used by Atlanta and New York "should promote innovation and help interested parties understand how and why various prediction apps are working." 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Greater Greater Washington

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