Real-time bus arrival information signs to be installed at bus stops this year –really


Electronic signs with real-time bus arrival information are planned for bus stops along busy corridors. (Luz Lazo/The Washington Post).

And Metro says they really mean it this time.

Back in early 2012, the transit agency said it planned to install electronic signs at bus stops across the region so riders could simply look up at their bus shelter and see information about the arrival of the next bus.

In December 2012, Metro’s director of bus planning, Jim Hamre, told a group of accessibility advocates that plans were to begin installing the digital displays in spring 2013.

In February 2013, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Metro was waiting to award the contract for the installation of the signs and it would then begin a six-month design process followed by the installation.  The contract was awarded in May 2013.  The plan, Stessel said, was to install 800 signs throughout the region over a four-year period. The signs would be at all MetroExtra stops, major ridership stops, and transfer locations.

Bus riders are still waiting.  Now Metro says the digital screens will go up at bus stops across the District later this year.  A federal grant covers costs for signs at 154 bus stops across the city, and dozens of others in the Washington region.

The D.C. Department of Transportation said in a recent report to the D.C. Council that it has continued to make progress on the initiative. The agency says it has installed new bus shelters and coordinated with Pepco to get electricity at each of the shelters to accommodate the signs.

Metro is responsible for installing the screens and providing the data to display real-time bus arrival information for Metrobus and the D.C. Circulator. Metro spokeswoman Morgan Dye said the signage design has been completed, and Metro has placed an initial order for 93 signs and plans to install them in late summer.

Metro and DDOT officials say problems getting power at the bus stops has stalled the project.  Signs will only be installed where electric power is available.

“It has been challenging to power those stations but I think that is complete,” Sam Zimbabwe, associate director for policy and planning at DDOT, said recently.

The digital screens are part of several regional bus priority projects funded with a $59.8 million federal grant.  The grant also covers costs for the construction of the Takoma-Langley Transit Center in Prince George’s County and the Potomac Yard Transitway, a rapid transit corridor under construction between Alexandria and Arlington.

According to the  National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board a total of 225 signs are covered in the federal grant. They will be strategically installed at priority corridors including 16th Street, Georgia Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, and H Street/Benning Road.

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.

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Lori Aratani · May 22, 2014

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