The developers of NextBus DC said they are reworking their app and plan to relaunch in the coming weeks.
The outage led about 7,000 D.C. area commuters to e-mail the app maker with complaints, a sign of how many riders have come to rely on technology to make their trips more efficient and predictable.
The frustration comes as Metro — the second-largest subway system in the country by ridership after New York City’s — has experienced declining ridership as it tries to rebuild its aging system, conducting major track work nearly every weekend.
But app developers said the troubles with Metro’s data go beyond the contract dispute between Ken Schmier, who founded the company that created the tracking technology used in the NextBus apps, and Emeryville, Calif., company NextBus Inc.
One problem, developers said, is that some of the information Metro provides developers for its bus system was missing data on route destinations. At other times, developers said, “weird” formatting or perhaps a software bug makes the name of a bus route — such as the 10A — appear as the time, as in 10 a.m.
When developers raised their complaints to Metro in online forums, they’ve gotten little or no response, they said. They point to mistakes in the data that were brought up years ago and have yet to be fixed.
Andy Monat, an app developer in Boston who recently made a smartphone app called dctransitinfo.com, said he found two-thirds of Metro’s 600 bus routes had a variety of troubles. Some bus routes showed up with error messages or read “testing” in the route name, Monat said. Others were missing data entirely. Many had no stops listed at all for the route or only a handful when they should have showed a dozen or more.
In an interview Tuesday, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel defended the agency’s efforts to encourage app development. He said Metro does not make the NextBus data directly available to app developers, because “we’re trying not to get locked into one vendor because then you’re locked into just that one.” He said there aren’t problems with its data and that developers who said there are problems are “mistaken.”
Ian Dixon, who developed an app called DC Metro and Bus, said the information Metro provides for app developers is “amateurish.”
“It is really bad quality of data,” said Dixon, whose app has been highly rated by iPhone and Android users.
“It’s an impediment to building something.”
But Dixon said he recently ran into another problem with the train data Metro provides.
Because his app is so popular, he said, he went beyond the limits Metro sets for the amount of data that can be pulled at any given time from its servers. That caused Dixon’s app to have sporadic outages around the Christmas holidays, leaving riders at rush hour in the dark.