As you know, Community Transit is developing a real-time bus information tool called BusFinder. It utilizes the GPS tracking that was recently installed on all our buses to offer customers a fairly accurate predictive time of when a bus will leave a particular bus stop.
Believe me when I tell you it works pretty well! But not completely, yet.
As we have tested the mobile and desktop versions, we have found problems with how they interpret our stop or bus data. We also want to offer rider alerts through these tools so you can know if there are impacts to the route you will be traveling on. Getting only the route alerts that are relevant to the stop you choose was a little trickier than we anticipated.
The BusFinder by Phone tool is a completely different animal. It uses the same data, but in a different way and will provide stop times for the next five buses, whether they are real-time or scheduled times. There are several issues unique to the phone tool that we are working on.
The biggest problem we have had for all these tools has to do with the complexity of our operations. On any given day, our dispatch may drop a trip, add a trip or reassign a bus. This may be due to traffic, weather conditions, mechanical issues or other operational challenges at that time. In any case, once these changes are made, a bus may disappear, suddenly materialize or turn into another trip from a customer perspective.
We want to make sure BusFinder captures this so it doesn’t show a bus departing in 5 minutes that is not going to be there. Or show no buses departing that stop, then suddenly a bus is there. This is how our buses really operate and what you should expect from a real-time tool.
Last week, we had a major BusFinder operational systems integration test (OSIT). This involved live buses, dummy buses and even our next bus signs at Ash Way, Lynnwood Transit Center and Mountlake Terrace. To our delight, many of the operational changes we were testing showed up correctly! But not all of them.
The best I can say is that we are “getting there!” We won’t give a launch date ahead of time. It is likely that BusFinder will suddenly go live and we will use our website and social media to get the word out. Once we feel confident it works well with many customers using it, we will begin a promotional campaign.
Thanks for your patience. Hang in there!