Bus riders wait for a bus on 16th Street near U Street going south toward downtown on 16th Street in Northwest.(Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post)

Metro is introducing a new prediction system for bus arrivals that could make your wait at the bus stop a bit less agonizing. For starters, it promises to eliminate those “ghost buses” that drive you crazy– yes, those buses that are supposed to come according to the online updates, but never show up.

The new system also lets you find out how many stops away your bus is.

Metro says BusETA is a significant improvement over the current NextBus system, which gives you an estimate of the next three bus arrivals, but has been widely criticized by users as inaccurate.

With the new platform, now being tested, you can track down where buses are in real-time by bus line or intersection.  You can  see the time and distance for the next bus arrival, and how many stops away your bus is. (That for sure could be helpful if you are running to catch your morning ride. If it’s a bus stop away, you should run faster!)

This screenshot shows you the locations of the No. 37 to Friendships Heights.  When you click on the bus figure, the system tells you the vehicle number, and the next three stops.  When you click on your bus stop, the system gives you an estimated arrival time for that route and other bus lines that stop there.


When you open the platform, you also can get access to information about nearby routes and bus stops. Metro says the system will provide alerts about delays and other bus disruptions.

The “ghost buses” will be eliminated in the new system, Metro says, by “clearly indicating when the system is using schedule data, rather than GPS location.”

The new platform uses an open-source arrival-prediction system popular in the transit industry.

Metro’s current system, NextBus, launched nearly a decade ago to deliver up-to-the minute bus arrival information to mobile devices, but over the years has continued to frustrate users. Riders say the service is seldom accurate, though Metro has said that its predictions on bus arrivals are correct roughly 90 percent of the time.

You can test BusETA and report any glitches to Metro before it officially launches next month.  Try it here and send comments to feedback@wmata.com.