Muni’s chronic delays and breakdowns may be slightly easier to swallow as the transit system notifies riders using NextBus digital displays and text message alerts.
Alerts were seen for perhaps the first time on NextBus displays at Muni stops on December 3, when Muni’s entire underground metro system was shut down by a blown transformer that disrupted its train signals.
The SF Municipal Transportation Agency is “currently working with the NextBus technology to better provide real-time updates through as many modes as possible,” said agency spokesperson Paul Rose. “We will be working with this technology to determine if this is something we can use system wide.”
“This is a great win for riders,” said Rob Boden, spokesperson for the SF Transit Riders Union. “Over the years, Muni has struggled to provide customers with information about delays. Riders were often stranded at bus stops without even knowing something was wrong. This is an improvement to customer service that has been a long time coming.”
Rose pointed out that riders can also sign up for text message and email alerts about delays on specific Muni lines by creating an account on NextMuni.com and selecting “Automatic Alerts.” There, users can add “Route Watch Alerts” for any number of Muni lines.
Muni has long been behind on adopting technology to alert riders about delays. As the SF Chronicle reported last month, “Every other major transit agency in the Bay Area either has or is close to having a way to send riders e-mails or text messages when there is a major delay.”
The SFMTA is also beta testing a smartphone app called Muni+, currently available for download, which could be used for alerts. In this user’s experience, however, the app’s drawbacks, like a cluttered display, heavy battery usage and complicated navigation, made it not worth keeping. Instead, it’s been much more convenient to check arrival times using a webpage bookmark for NextMuni.com. Delays are also reported on the SFMTA’s Twitter feed, and number of third-party apps are also available for arrival times.