Metro has already lapped the field compared to its regional partners in the race for real-time data. They have long exported that data to a multitude of apps (and text services!) and posted it on signs at many of the most important bus stops. However, underlying problems with real-time data have typically limited the usefulness of any platform for that data, public or private, under certain circumstances. In particular, users at the beginning of a route who were not “in the know” were pretty likely to show up absurdly early or late for their bus.
Two weeks ago, Metro announced a fix to that problem.
To fix this problem, Metro has upgraded the underlying data system that drives the transit schedules in a project called “Stop Based Scheduling.” It goes live Saturday, Sept. 23, and it shifts the data that schedules are based on away from key intersections, using key bus stops instead, while also mapping out what buses will do when they’re not in service.
Because of this, customers may notice an improvement in the accuracy of “real time” schedule information if they ride on one of the earlier stops on a particular trip. This transition should be seamless for riders, improving the accuracy of the data Metro collects about its service, specifically around where our buses are and how they’re operating relative to their schedules.
Changes like this dramatically reduce the frustration factor. New users find that schedules often do not reflect reality, and then discover OneBusAway. Then they find that even that data, which has the illusion of accuracy, has deep problems of its own.
These problems are sometimes deceptively hard and/or expensive to solve, but Metro prioritized them and solved them. Perhaps this attitude can filter over to other agencies as well.