Metro Posts Alerts for Bus Riders

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Metro has begun posting service-disruption information for Metrobus on its Web site as a way to improve communication with riders on its more than 350 bus routes. The agency has been posting such information for rail riders for years.

Alerts will be listed in a scrolling format near the top of the agency's home page ( when there are disruptions because of police activity, emergency road closings, excessive traffic, inclement weather, demonstrations or Metrorail station closings, officials said.

Metro will provide the route, location and destination of the bus, the start time and the reason for and details of the disruption. Once the disruption is cleared, the alert will be removed from Web site.

The agency plans to provide e-mail alerts for bus disruptions as it does for rail riders, but information technology officials said they do not know when that service will be available. The e-mail alerts are to be tailored by routes, similar to how rail-disruption information is transmitted.

Bus riders say the information they most want is something that Metro does not provide: bus arrival times.

In November 2006, the agency tested a system called NextBus, which told riders when a bus would arrive at a stop. Customers called a telephone number, provided the bus stop number, and received information on a cellphone or hand-held wireless device that told the amount of time before the bus would arrive. The system used GPS navigation technology and computer modeling to track buses on routes every 90 seconds.

The popular program was suspended in September because Metro officials said the data provided to customers were not accurate enough. Officials said yesterday that NextBus service is expected to be ready by June 2009.

Metrobus, with more than 12,000 bus stops, has about 450,000 riders on a typical weekday.

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