Muni Begins to Catch Up With NextBus Delay Alerts for Riders

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.

Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericbvd/6129243839/##Eric Broder Van Dyke/Flickr##

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.

  • Anonymous

    That Muni+ app sucks and should be sent to App Hell. 

  • Anonymous

    When the Metro service was disrupted last week, the predictions for the phantom cars were still available online through Nextbus. There are some comments available through the system about the service disruption and ask people to ignore the predictions, but those comments are within the canned comments about proof of payment and 511.

  • Joel

    Some high-traffic bus stops (Forest Hill!) still lack NextBus signs. What gives, Muni?

  • mikesonn

    A lot of the new “shelters” (term used very loosely) still don’t have them either.

  • Ted King

     Major blind spots in the NextBus network :
    1) Forest Hill street-level (36 / 43 / 44 / 52);
    2) Balboa Park main (8X / 8BX / 29 / 43 / 54 / 88 / 91) + LRV (J / K); and
    3) Stonestown main (17 / 18 / 29).

    P.S. The 28-19th Ave.’s announcements at Stonestown could be piggy-backed onto the M-Ocean View’s platform unit.

  • Permutation76

    In MUNI Metro, why do audible announcements not jibe with NextBus postings? “LL in 3 mins.; L in 4 mins.” but actually what arrives is K in 1 min. and J in 6 mins..
    Also, please install displays on the Market St. islands, even if a shelter is not installed, e.g., at 2nd St. where tourists and those of us that don’t use smartphones need the displays.

  • Ted King

     The Muni Metro muddle is due to in part to there being several systems involved : the Market Street Subway’s (MSS’s) loop tracking, GPS tracking on the surface, NextBus, and the possibility of manual overrides from Metro Central (West Portal) or the field dispatcher at Embarcadero.

    The border effects at the tunnel portals are part of the muddle. You can see and hear the border effect at Embarcadero by noting what shows on the screens (MSS track diagram and Metro system diagram) and the various announcements (PA + LED). The K-Inglesides and the N-Judahs don’t show up on the track diagram until after they enter the tunnel and get inserted into an available slot in the MSS’s block list.

    While the present system borders on being a kludge it does work. Wholesale replacement of what Muni has now would be hideously expensive and would take a long time to put in place. The best that can be hoped for is piecemeal upgrades that harden the various systems and shorten the information lags between them.

    An observant railfan, NOT a Muni employee

  • Ted King

     The Muni Metro muddle is due to in part to there being several systems involved : the Market Street Subway’s (MSS’s) loop tracking, GPS tracking on the surface, NextBus, and the possibility of manual overrides from Metro Central (West Portal) or the field dispatcher at Embarcadero.

    The border effects at the tunnel portals are part of the muddle. You can see and hear the border effect at Embarcadero by noting what shows on the screens (MSS track diagram and Metro system diagram) and the various announcements (PA + LED). The K-Inglesides and the N-Judahs don’t show up on the track diagram until after they enter the tunnel and get inserted into an available slot in the MSS’s block list.

    While the present system borders on being a kludge it does work. Wholesale replacement of what Muni has now would be hideously expensive and would take a long time to put in place. The best that can be hoped for is piecemeal upgrades that harden the various systems and shorten the information lags between them.

    An observant railfan, NOT a Muni employee

  • Peter M

     I think the lack of NextBus signs at some of those major stops are because of a lack of electricity running to the shelters there (And in the case of the northbound stop at Forest Hill, no shelter at all). Still, it’s pretty sad that they haven’t prioritized stops with very high ridership.

  • Ted King

     @faabfcaf353ca52e40534f2491390542:disqus The three that I listed all have electricity nearby. There is a legacy shelter (aka “The Cave”) at Forest Hill’s northbound stop. The ridiculous aspect of Forest Hill and Balboa Park is that both locations have a major SFMuni building that could provide a mounting point for two large format signs (Forest Hill and Balboa Park main) and a mounting point for a platform sign (Balboa Park J/K).

    Forest Hill faces a double issue. Some will object to a sign at the northbound stop for fears of vandalism. Others will say that a sign on the portal building is a defacement. My response is that the sign should have a suitable trim wrapped around it. The benefit of a large format sign is that SFMuni wouldn’t have to drill through concrete to get access to the conduits in the emergency exit on the northbound side.

    The staff bridge at Balboa Park provides an ideal mounting point for two signs. A large format sign, readily visible from across the street, could be mounted above the entrance and below the canopy. A smaller sign could be mounted on the side of the bridge where people waiting for a J-Church or a K-Ingleside would easily see it.

    P.S. There is another problem at NextBus. Some of their signs provide information for side-by-side stops (e.g. Church + Market southbound for 22-Fillmore and J-Church). But they haven’t done something similar for split stops like Geneva + Mission westbound. So while you can see NextBus information for 8X / 8BX / 43 / 54 / 91 the stop at the gas station across the street (29 / 88) is dark territory. So if you are headed for the Balboa Park Stn. you might miss a connection.

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