Monday, July 6, 2009

NextBus and Circulator Systems a Blast

A double dose of transit good news occurred last week. Circulator, the limited stop DDOT buses, and Metrobus both instituted GPS based bus locators. Each system (they are operated separately) now has an internet ready system which allows riders to check the arrival status of nearby buses. I have tested both systems over the last week and both have worked nearly flawlessly.

NextBus is best reached by internet browser from your mobile phone. The mobile site is If you do not have internet access, each Metrobus stop displays a unique identifying number. For example, the first southbound stop of th 42, (Lamont and Mt Pleasant Sts NW) is numbered 1002070. Call 202-637-7000 and use that number to activate the automated system. NextBus errs toward an early estimate by about one minute. So, if the bus is just arriving at your stop, the NextBus system will direct you to the bus arriving after that one. This way, unless you are really close to the stop, you will not be disappointed by missing a bus the system said was going to be available. I have tried the mobile internet site about 12 times since its inception and have never been given incorrect information. A+ for implementation so far.

The Ciculator mobile site ( is the only way to access it's buses locations. No voice access yet. Not as exact as NextBus, the Circulator site only gives the approximate location of the closest buses (i.e. " Bus #1137 is near 24TH ST AND CONNECTICUT AVE, NW 1 mi. away). From there, you have to determine whether or not to keep waiting or look for another form of transport. You won't get a report of how many minutes away the bus is, only distance. I tested the Circulator site several times iver the last week and twice was mislead about the location of a bus. Once, a bus was supposed to be at a location, but I gathered it had just passed. The second time, a bus that was supposed to be about a mile away showed up at my stop, early. Perhaps there is a lag in reporting the GPS coordinates over the web. I'll keep checking and report back if things improve. B+ for Circulator implementation.

What are your experiences? What grade would you give DDOT and Metro for their efforts?