Op-Ed SFMTA needs to fix more than just NextBus

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

We at San Francisco Transit Riders urge Board of Supervisors President London Breed to call for a hearing to hold the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency accountable for the failure of their NextBus prediction tool.

As we now know, the NextBus fiasco was a result of AT&T disabling the 2G network upon which NextBus depended. Back in 2012, AT&T announced that it would disable 2G as of Jan. 1, 2017. However, apparently no one at the SFMTA knew that or took it seriously.

Muni follows its schedule less than 60 percent of the time. So what makes Muni tolerable is having real-­time predictions; adding 20 minutes of uncertainty to a trip is not workable…

Lack of Internal Communications

In November, just more than a month before the NextBus failure, SFMTA’s chief technology officer, along with a NextBus representative, was promoting a new radio dispatch system coming possibly in March, according to a San Francisco Examiner article.

Seemingly, neither the chief technology officer nor the NextBus representative knew the existing system would crash well before their planned upgrades…

ack of Internal Commitment

At a meeting on Jan. 17, Director Ed Reiskin finally apologized. He acknowledged the episode was “a lesson for me in how important this service is to our riders. The reaction we got was amazing, and I don’t mean in a good way … it spoke … to how valuable having arrival predictions are for our riders.”

We wonder if Reiskin depends on Muni to get to work on time.

If we truly want to be a transit­-first city, we need transit that works well enough to attract ever more riders. We need the SFMTA to understand Muni’s key role in the daily lives of so many people who need to get to work, go to school and take their children to school.

We call for public hearings so there is public accountability. We are tired of the opacity and lack of management. We want a transparent plan forward, including a timeline addressing the City Controller’s report to ensure consistent staffing, consistent service and clearer internal management…(more)

When ENUF agrees with SF Transit Riders you know the SFMTA must be doing something wrong. it is time for some major changes. We have been complaining for years. Now we are  joined by the most pro Muni organization in town in calling for a  “Public Hearing” to discus the major problems the Muni riders are having with Muni. This should occur before any more budget items are approved since the power of the purse is the only thing the Board of Supervisors seem to be able to use to control this out of control agency.

This goes way beyond fixing NextBus and all those wonderful apps that do nothing to move people and good on the streets. We don’t need to be entertained or taught a new trick every day on our way to work. Transit should be consistent, not an adventure  game we play each day. Moving the buses and stops and traffic lanes around has gotten old and irritating, and we need a break from unwanted changes.

SFMTA: Inaccurate NextBus Predictions Will Take ‘Weeks to Restore’

by Fiona Lee : hoodline – excerpt

Over the past week, SFMTA riders have been frustrated by inaccurate NextBus predictions and tracking at stops and on their apps. Many have been left to wait for a train or bus that never arrives, an issue that is still happening today.

Now, the SFMTA says that the inaccurate predictions that have been plaguing the NextMuni system, also known as NextBus, are expected to last several weeks.

“The inaccurate predictions are due to a technical issue that we’re working aggressively to resolve,” explained Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA. “At this point, we expect it will take at least a matter of weeks to restore and phase in all missing Muni predictions.”

The agency expects to have more information and provide a detailed timeline on when a fix will happen by early next week, he added…

The NextBus system is also expected to be updated in 2018 as part of a larger, comprehensive overhaul.

In the meantime, the SFMTA asks riders to check its Twitter account for the latest updates on delays. And to help riders better predict arrival times, the agency posted a frequency timetable for all Muni bus and rail lines at the end of its blog post today.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and understand how important this information is to Muni riders,” Rose said.

SFMTA spends money on tech not bus service. New union contracts are coming up. They will fight the unions but not the tech companies. Track their spending on NextBus and figure that for each million dollars they spend they could be putting another bus into service. At least that is what we were told when we asked how many buses they could have added to Mission Street instead of painting the street red.

BTW if you drive down Mission Street in the rain, or Church or any of the other painted streets, check out how hard it is to see the color at night in the rain. Let the SFMTA know whether you would prefer more buses or more paint and tech expenditures. Copy the Mayor and Supervisors on those messages.

“As someone pointed out, not everyone has a Twitter account” or a smart phone with an account that works everywhere for that matter.

 

Sweeping Muni app prediction upgrade could wipe out ‘ghost bus’ problem

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

Tens of thousands of San Francisco bus riders rely on NextMuni to time their trips, but The City has acknowledged the system can suffer from inaccuracies and what some call “ghost buses.”

That’s when the stated bus arrival time on a smartphone or on one of The City’s 867 NextMuni signs, says perhaps “5 minutes” away, for instance, and then suddenly disappears — no bus, no prediction — leaving riders stranded and confused.
Now, however, Muni’s “ghost buses” are about to get ghost-busted.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is planning a $127 million overhaul of its radio systems and a new computer dispatch system, which the agency revealed in a recent small community meeting may also vastly improve its bus prediction system, known as NextMuni.

And perhaps — if NextBus is again chosen to partner with Muni in a public process — that new communication system may be coupled with an anticipated overhaul of the core NextBus service itself, which is sold by a third-party company, Cubic, to cities across the country…

The Save Muni group, including members Bob Feinbaum, Joan Wood and Gerald Cauthen, continued to pepper Walton and Stevenson with questions, revealing an intimate picture of how NextMuni would improve months before any formal announcement of such changes…(more)

Thanks to SaveMuni for uncovering the details of how Muni plans to fix the ghost bus problem. And thanks to Joe for bringing this to our attention. We hope all the “mays” will turn into “wills” at some point. Until then, we shall have to wait and see.

 

NextBus Muni predictions inaccurate during commute hours almost half the time, study says

By  : sfexaminer – excerpt – (animation)

Most Muni riders at one time or another have shared the experience of standing at a bus stop and glancing at the LED sign which predicts the next bus.

Mysteriously, the sign stays stuck on the same prediction for minutes at a time — a common occurrence, according to transit app company Swyft.

NextBus predictions can be inaccurate 40 percent of the time if a bus is 20 minutes or more away, according to a Swyft study, released Thursday. “NextBus accuracy plummets as it tries to predict arrivals further out in time,” Swyft wrote in a summary of its study findings.

NextBus sent the following statement in response to the study: “In urban environments the time between buses may only be 8 to 20 minutes, so people aren’t looking out 30 minutes for a bus. They want to see the next one or two.”…

 

Smartphone app makers like Swyft, Metro San Francisco, Routesy, Pocket Muni and others use the data as the backbone for their bus prediction services…

The SFMTA has a similar service for its riders, but it sends Twitter, email and text message announcements of delays to users…

And as for inaccurate predictions, SFMTA wrote that GPS technology aboard buses “takes into account the actual position of the transit vehicle, the intended stops and anticipated traffic patterns. So, when traffic is snarled or your bus or train has a mechanical malfunction, NextMuni predictions often become inaccurate.”

So for instance, if a vehicle is two blocks away from your stop but stuck in traffic, it may read “2 Minutes” away until the bus is able to move – no matter how long it takes.

In that way, the “time” predicted is perhaps, more accurately, a measurement of distance… (more)