Next bus times a reality for RapidRide but not for Link
Next bus times a reality for RapidRide but not for Link

Up to the minute bus arrival times have been appearing on many of the message signs at RapidRide A Line stations with caveat message “Testing is in Progress”. The displays show times for the A Line and any other Metro route serving that stop, though other routes may not be accurate because they aren’t equipped with GPS yet.

I was watching the sign at S 176th St/SeaTac station. I arrived at the station seeing 5 minutes to the next bus and about 5 minutes later the bus arrived. The sign changed from “1min” to “due” as the bus became visible in the distance. It’s quite accurate, with buses arriving within 1-2 min of the predictions, though some stations showed an arriving bus as 2 minutes away. There was one case where it predicted around 3-4 minutes and the bus arrived 8 minutes after the previous one. I’m not expecting clockwork here, just a general idea of how long the wait is. One Bus Away seems to be using the tracking data as well.

So when will Link get better real-time information? The answer ranges from probably not in a long time to as soon as possible.

16 Replies to “Testing in Progress for RapidRide Arrival Times”

    1. If this is true, it is unacceptable.

      I’d like to see a cohesive explanation from ST on why this will not happen. Better yet, I’d like to hear what it would take to make it happen and suggestions on how we can go about it. Many of us are tempted to armchair engineer how such a system could be put in place, but let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth.

      1. ST already does the 1/2/3 minute and train now arriving messages. The capability already exists. So why not extend the system and put it into a static display? How hard could it be?

      2. Without knowing exactly how that system works we can’t say for sure it is extensible. For all we know the 1/2/3 minute system merely triggers when a train leaves passes a certain point on the track – could be based on whatever train tracking system they use in the control center or it could be an entirely separate system.

        Believe me, I’d love to get into the details with ST’s engineers, roll up my sleeves, and engineer something myself :-) But I want to give them the benefit of the doubt as to why it can’t be done. Then I’ll decide whether to continue belly aching!

      1. Does anyone know more about Metro upgrading to digital trunking radios? It was mentioned in the comments of the post linked to above. If/when that happens, ST gets the data channel it needs in the tunnel for free. They could just feed odometer data from the trains to OBA’s algorithm and display the number on the screens.

      2. The new digital system is up and running; with RapidRide on it and everything else slowly moving on to it. Should have everything there by (I think) end of Q2 2012. Whatever Metro quoted as having on-board stop announcements for the entire fleet would be when the new system would be completely rolled out.

        No, ST would not magically get a data channel. It’s trunked anyways. Metro’s system is an independent 700 MHz X2 TDMA system, whereas the system ST uses in the tunnel is 800 MHz analog. The difference would be buying new radios, ~ $5,000 a pop, and each car would need one (or two of you move voice over too).

        ST could already run a data talkgroup on the 800 system. They just need to ask King County to do it (and hand over a chunk of change).

      3. Oh, I was relying on another comment somewhere in there that ST was using KCM’s system in the tunnel, so scratch all that.

        What’s the big technical hold-up then? Or is there none, they just don’t have the chunk of change required?

      4. Don’t confuse the King County Metro system with the King County system. They are very separate.

        ST could easily be on either system. It’s a matter of asking*, engineering, and dropping a ton of cash.

        *Which could be denied if the system owner determines there isn’t enough capacity on their system.

    1. …Except that we’re really upset about it and are in no mood to defend it. Tim’s link above is reporting of ST’s statement, not an opinion piece.

      In fact real-time arrivals is the #1 think I would change about Link if I could, and I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of why it can’t happen.

    2. Why would you wait for that, when they’ve griped about about it so many times before?

  1. Yeah, we’ve been through the Link issue before. I’m sorry, but the ST’s response on the matter has never been acceptable. Bruce did a poor PR job on this last time, I doubt he’d be interested in revisiting it. Nevertheless, as far as service improvements go, this would be huge. And one that I am still asking for. Although, as Oran provided an alternative schedule method at stations the other day, that is an easier fix that could be implemented quite quickly. Metro should provide these at all transit centres and high usage stops.

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