Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When's the next bus?

Tired of missing the bus or watching it go past when you're still a block away? I sure am. It looks like there may be a solution - Nextbus has a website for WMATA which has a scheduler and a cool live map function, pictured here. However, it seems like a beta version, as you can't get there from the main Nextbus page, and it's not listed on the WMATA website (their site says it's offline). But if you go to the link above, it works.

I haven't checked the accuracy of the site yet, but it looks cool - you can pick a line, pick where you are and where you're going, then see when the next three buses show up. Once you're at that page, you can click "Live Map" to see where the buses actually are, both northbound and southbound, and it updates as they move - here's the direct link. You can also add more routes (for example, the 52, 53 & 54) - click "Routes" and add the ones you want. (The Google Map option seems to be broken.) If you put your mouse over a stop, it will show you what lines service it and when the next three buses for each line will come.

This is potentially really awesome, so I'll let you know if it works on my trip home today.

42 comments:

IMGoph said...

aw, damnit. i've been using this for a while (it's not extremely reliable, in my opinion, but it's better than nothing).

of course, i figure if they get too much traffic, they'll be on to us and shut it down. here's hoping not...

Thomas Noyes said...

Thanks for using NextBus! The WMATA site is not beta, it is still under construction. WMATA has just given us the green light to finish the project and release it to the public later this year. In the meantime, feel free to continue using it.

IMGoph - No, we won't be shutting it down because you use it. We WANT you to use it, and feel free to send us feedback. We haven't created links to it from the main NextBus page yet because it is not ready for widespread public use. You mention it not being reliable, please send me an email and elaborate. Keep in mind, it is under construction.

NextBus is currently installed at over 50 municipalities and 22 college/university transit systems. We have the largest installed base of any company in the industry, and are the oldest, most established doing this.

Visit www.nextbusnews.com for info, or www.nextbus.com to use the system.

Feel free to send feedback to info@nextbus.com.

belmontmedina said...

Sad, I just tried to use it, and I got all kinds of crazy error messages.

Jason said...

Im getting errors here too. I'm sending it to my phone though. Just in case it switches back. Good find.

bothsidesofthefence said...

I got a million error messages too. System's probably all overloaded and can't handle the traffic.

Looking forward to using it though - I've been using it for the Fairfax CUE bus and it works really well.

John said...

Thanks for ruining this by publicizing it and getting WMATA to shut it down. Idiot.

Andrew said...

John, this is a blog. I'm not going to avoid writing about something because it's cool. Give me a break.

IMGoph said...

andrew: you're right, but don't you sometimes have to think about the consequences of what you write about? for example, i recently learned where a battered woman's shelter being built in the city. i'm not going to publicize that information though, because it could lead to the endangerment of some of their clients.

i know that the nextbus thing isn't anywhere near as serious as that, but i think it's a point that we can agree on. i'm not advocating self-censorship, but discretion.

Andrew said...

IMgoph, of course discretion is important in the right cases, but a website about bus lines is not one of those cases. How do I know if WMATA is going to take a site down or not? I don't run their website. It's something useful, I'm going to tell people about it. What's next, not reporting on a new bar or restaurant because I don't want it to get crowded? I wouldn't be able to post anything.

IMGoph said...

andrew: you're right, and you make a good point about people's right-to-know. i just feel that, at this juncture, it's safe to say that the attention that this has received from both dcist and NCH has been enough to render this service kaput for now.

that's why i mentioned the consequences angle. there was a possibility that letting people know about a cool thing would lead to that cool thing ceasing to exist. in the end, let's all hope that wmata is really dedicated to getting this thing up and running, and quickly!

Andrew said...

I agree with you on the last part, but I don't think WMATA not having their crap together is my fault. If WMATA didn't want people to use this site, it shouldn't have been out there.

Anonymous said...

THE FIRST RULE OF WMATA IS YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT WMATA.

Anonymous said...

And if you would have kept your mouth shut instead of stirring the pot you wouldn't have ruined this for everyone in the city. Think about your actions before you post something next time.

Andrew said...

Give me a break. If you want this service, maybe you should talk to WMATA or Jim Graham.

Reid said...

Perhaps you just didn't understand the history of NextBus Andrew. It has been one of constant attempts at WMATA to just hope the thing goes away. They "temporarily" shut it down years ago because it wasn't working "right" with their systems. Of course that was b*llshit. They hate it. San Fran's BART hated it too, and it's been like pulling teeth for them to get it up and running.

So, no it's not your fault for publicizing a cool thing. It's your fault for not doing a little more research to find out the history of the crap WMATA has pulled to resist this system's roll-out. You obviously didn't know it, but calling WMATA's spokesman virtually guaranteed this backdoor would get shut "temporarily". Now we'll be without it for months and months, while it gets swallowed by the Great Wall of Indifference that Metro has towards its bus riders.

Anonymous said...

You don't deserve a break. You should have thought to yourself, "What will happen if I ask Metro about this?" Now, because of your actions, thousands of people can't access a service that was working very well. You should have known that calling attention to something online that had not officially been rolled out would have some inevitable effect.

Andrew said...

Disagree. If you're mad, call Metro.

IMGoph said...

andrew: i think you're missing part of the point people are making here. wmata wanted this thing squashed. they haven't given it any support whatsoever along the way, yet i guess the people at nextbus were still puttering around with things anyway.

once wmata was confronted with answering questions about it in public, they put the hammer down. now, catoe says this will be up and running by the end of the year, but all of the evidence that we've seen up to this point seems to say that won't be happening.

it's a shame we lost what we had, but what's done is done. there's no point in anonymous people getting angry about it and badmouthing andrew, but at the same time, andrew, you have to admit that you played a role here.

Andrew said...

No, I get the point, I just disagree with it. I write a blog. This blog's point is to talk about things going on in the neighborhood. Nextbus is a useful tool for neighborhood people. Maybe it was some kind of secret underground thing that only select few people knew about, but it could have potentially been useful to lots of people. I can't control what Metro does, and I can't assume they're going to shut something useful down if I write about it, no matter what happened in the past. They shouldn't do that, and if they do, then they're to blame, not me. If WMATA wanted this squashed, as you say, just keeping secret about it and crossing your fingers was not sustainable.

It's too bad this got shut down, but I have a responsibility to report and to ask people questions - if I don't, I'm doing people a disservice: "hey, I heard about this cool thing that could be really useful to you, but I'm going to keep it secret on the off chance that being mentioned in public will shut it down and piss some people off." Like I said, if you don't agree with what Metro did, you have a number of options: you can bitch at me, which will accomplish nothing, or you can contact Metro, the Metro board of directors, or your city councilman and ask for it to be brought up again.

IMGoph said...

andrew: i agree with you 100% here on the basics. my point was that it seemed to me (initially) that you were wiping your hands of this with a "we report, you decide" kind of detachedness, when the truth was your action likely caused the ultimate action (the shutdown of the site to the public for the time being). it's kind of like the "observer effect" described by heisenberg.

please don't take this as an insult. i truly enjoy your blog, and i hope that all of us who are doing neigborhood blogging here in the district are doing people a real service.

i (and others) have contacted wmata multiple times about getting nextbus up and moving. i've spoken to emeka moneme personally about how important i think nextbus is, so people near the top of the wmata power structure know that the public is looking to see this go forward. i think it really is the board that's holding things back, in the same way that they are keeping google transit from having access to their data. it's a silly power struggle, locked up in a dated and outmoded belief about what best serves the public interest.

sorry to ramble... :)

Anonymous said...

Since This blog's point is to talk about things going on in the neighborhood, start blogging about Metro shutting down the site because of your queries. Start a rally, petition, whatever. You said it was a useful tool, now put yourself into a useful position and get it back online.

Andrew said...

Good idea - look for one Monday.

In the meantime, please contact Metro and your city councilmen too!

John said...

While you make a couple of good points, Andrew, I take exception to your idea that it isn't your responsibility to consider consequences. You may wish to review http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp, which provides that "minimize harm" is a co-equal principle of conscientious journalism.

Although you apparently did not give it any thought beforehand, you (and Sommer Mathis of DCist) cannot seriously deny that have caused significant harm to a segment of the bus-riding community that was benefiting from this unpublished information. The question is: is that going to be the end of it for you, or are you now going to pitch in and help put things right?

I'm anxiously awaiting your Monday post, but am deeply disappointed that it took an anonymous commenter to get you to consider how to make things right.

Andrew said...

Dude, this isn't the Northwestern school of journalism. If WMATA sucks at something, at the very least you could argue I'm helping point it out. I write about what I think people will find useful. I'll do a poll on Monday. If that's not enough for you, then so be it.

Andrew said...

Furthermore, I do this for free in my spare time. I don't appreciate getting called an idiot for writing about something I would find useful.

emma discovery said...

I read about the Next Bus service on bus stop signage... Had no idea it was such a big secret!

Reid said...

Here's a good analogy:

The NextBus hack was like this really cool speakeasy. Only those in the know knew about it. As a neighborhood blogger you thought it was your responsibility to tell more people about it. OK, fair enough. But you did more than just tell your readers about some cool speakeasy. You called the cops and asked them what they thought about it too.

This has nothing to do with blogging or whether you do this for free or not. The blogging had nothing to do with it. It was the telephone call.

It's not your fault WMATA sucks balls about this stuff. But I do think you have some moral obligation to NextBus (former) users to use this experience to shame WMATA into rolling out the service ASAP.

Andrew said...

The cops? WMATA set this up. It wasn't like some underground hacker busted into WMATA systems, they paid for another company to build it. Am I in crazy town?

As I mentioned, I will start a petition. And as for John earlier, I can't think of everything. Someone else had a good idea and I picked up on it, sue me. But a petition won't do much if no one else contacts WMATA and their city councilmen. Again, bitching at me isn't going to solve anything. Maybe you're mad, but take it out on WMATA because they weren't supporting NextBus.

Anonymous said...

I am really shocked that people are laying into this blog for posting publicly available information about the damn nextbus info.

You're basically advocating that information about the city government should be kept secret under some circumstances.

That's entirely messed up. Particularly considering that we are ALL still dealing with a city government that's refusing to release the full information on the DeOnte Rawlings shooting.

Go complain about that. Not some rando blogger posting about Next Bus.

John said...

Reid's analogy is spot on, Andrew, but you have to understand the history of WMATA's relationship with NextBus to get it. They've tried to roll this thing out once, and then pulled it. Some of us live in neighborhoods that aren't served by 15 bus lines like CoHi. To us, NextBus was the only thing that made bus riding remotely bearable. And WMATA turned it off, saying they needed EIGHTEEN MONTHS to "fix" it. (When it was far less broken than their own damn schedule.) Then it turns out that they've only hidden it, making it into an unsupported, unpublicized service. Those who followed this history therefore KNEW that WMATA would not take kindly to open usage, and we were forced into the underground. Hell, I'd love to have told the world, but WMATA's actions made clear they would not react well. (I almost complained around Christmas time when they made some tweaks that made the results less accurate, but I knew better than to complain about something they didn't want me to be using in the first place.) So as soon as I saw your post and the one on DCist, I knew that the hammer was going to come down. I wasn't the only one to make that prediction, and it's extremely frustrating to those of us who have found a way of living with WMATA's crap for the last couple of years to see a "newbie" mess it up.

Of course, we're mad at WMATA. We've been pissed off at them for years. But we found a way to manage, and now that way doesn't work any more. You can't blame us for being upset, and while we don't give WMATA a pass (by ANY means), it is also quite understandable that you're going to get a lot of grief too, Andrew. I apologize for calling you an idiot. I'm quite sure you're not, and I admire your efforts at civic engagement. I just wish you'd looked a bit deeper into this issue, ESPECIALLY before contacting either NextBus or WMATA about it. (Frankly, I lay some blame also on Tom Noyes, who clearly didn't have authority to officially promote the service.)

Having spent my frustration and anger at the messengers, I'm resigned to a long and probably fruitless public campaign to engage the faceless bureaucracy of WMATA. The only good thing that's come out of this incident is that it has flushed out the other closet NextBus users like me, so that I won't be just one voice in the wilderness. I'm motivated and willing to help. We need to strategize the most effective group action on this. I really hope that NCH and DCist, as the focal points of this debacle, can help us organize and rally critical mass to make WMATA take notice. (I'm less sanguine on the odds of getting them to respond the way we'd like.)

I'm going to think about next steps I can take, and see about contacting some of the others on this comment thread who seem to share my point of view. I'd post my email right now to invite the same, but I'm not sure about the security of that. If I can figure it out, I'll post again.

Maybe, Andrew, in the long run, if we can get some positive results from WMATA, I'll be willing to thank you for having indirectly moved this issue forward. For now, though, I'm still bitter.

Sincerely,
John Mitchell

Andrew said...

Fair enough. Thanks for the reasonable response John.

Anonymous said...

dumbest debate ever? move to somewhere close to public transportation if you're going to rely on it enough to bitch out people who release a PUBLICLY AVAILABLE SITE'S NAME ON THEIR BLOG.

or get a real job and buy a car.

Anonymous said...

same anonymous guy here.... i'll call myself BUSSER. the speakeasy analogy is totally incorrect, because there was nothing on the site (i presume) asking people not to release its name/information, or, for that matter, warning that the site would be shut down or overwhelmed if people went to it. Those traits are pretty clear about speakeasies (as when the Post wrote about the hidden bar in Adams Morgan, and the owners subsequently had to move). He didn't know this was going to happen!

Anonymous said...

"Fair enough?" Andrew, at this point you still owe us an apology.

Anonymous said...

No he doesn't owe you an apology. I'm still really blown away by the rampant elitism of all this. Some people on here clearly want to be able to be "in the know" at the expense of public knowledge about what our government institutions are doing. It's shameful.

I'm glad this got posted up and I hope things like this keep getting posted up.

Brian said...

wow! can you do an FOIA or something on WMATA. I would like to see where they stand on this project. Project plans, requirements, money spent, etc. What is the plan to finish this up. I think they were a lot closer than 18 months from completing this project.

and the idea that you should keep it secret so a few elite dc'ers should be the only people to have access is ridiculous. Yeah, you may have ruined it for them, but you may have sped up the process to bring it to rest of us less fortunate people who's brother doesn't work at wmata to let us know about this.

Reid said...

Those people complaining about the complainers are getting it mixed up. Personally, I don't hold a grudge against Andrew for posting this. Hell, I learned about the hack from a blog. That's just how viral things spread. If someone wanted to find out about how to get NextBus, they could easily find it via google. Hell, I've even told strangers waiting at the bus stop about it.

The error, in my mind, was in calling WMATA about it. That's different than telling potential users. There have been a bunch of blog posts about nextbus that didn't result in the hack being closed. It wasn't until Andrew called WMATA that it got shut down. So frankly this has nothing to do with "elites" hoarding information. It's about people realizing they had a good thing going and trying to keep it going for people who could use it.

But clearly Andrew didn't realize that. Maybe he didn't even realize that it was a hack (which would alert someone to the idea that maybe it's not the best idea to alert WMATA). And as I said, it's not his fault Metro sucks about this.

But in the end, he's promised to do something about it, and hopefully it will mean the service gets "published" faster than it would, and maybe he'll get some god web traffic in the meantime. Win-Win, despite the temporary and unnecessary setback.

Anonymous said...

So you go from a petition to a measly poll. What good is a poll going to do? "If that's not good enough for you, so be it."

Anonymous said...

What you should be doing is posting a new blog entry akin to "I'm sorry. In my overzealous attempt to share a really cool thing with my readers, I had a total moment of dumbassery and called Metro about a service I knew hadn't been made available to the general public. Because of my call the service has been taken offline for the time being. I've started an internet petition at www.whatever.com -- please sign it so we can get Metro's attention and hopefully get the service back online."

Instead, you've washed your hands of it, blamed the removal on Metro and can't even do what any respectful journalist would do by admitting the mea culpa and try to correct the situation.

Andrew said...

First off, I didn't call Metro - I mentioned Thomas Noyes' comment on my blog to Sommer at DCist, and she called them for a clarification, which is a completely reasonable thing to do, as what Thomas said differed completely from what WMATA had been saying. I didn't mention that before because I didn't want to bring her into this and have people get mad at her too, as I wrote both posts, and I still think we both did the right thing - telling more people about a useful service.

I won't apologize, but I am doing a petition; poll was a typo due to how angry I got from all these mostly anonymous comments. I also contacted the Post's transit writer and Dr. Gridlock about this, since there's obviously more to the story. Hopefully they can get to the bottom of it.

I still think if you didn't take your bile out on me and tried calling Metro or your elected officials you might accomplish something. Staying here just gets both of us angry.

Mike said...

Maybe you guys should ask for a refund

nolageek said...

What a bunch of elitist whiners. If any of you are the least bit upset about this, instead of being angry at Andrew for letting people know about it, be mad at WMATA for shutting it down.

Talk about "killing the messenger." You're the same people, I bet, that get pissed off when your favorite bar becomes popular, or abandon a band when you feel they've 'sold out.' Don't tell me, you liked their "first album."


BTW, Nextbus's SMS system still works just fine with WMATA.

http://www.nextbus.com/wirelessConfig/sms.jsp

The agency code is wmata. I use it all the time.

O NOZ!