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Where's My Bus?: NextBus for Circulator

DC just launched Where's My Bus, a NextBus-type service for the Circulator. Unlike NextBus, it won't predict how long it will take for the next buses to arrive; instead, it tells riders how far away the next buses are.

Photo by JLaw45.

This wasn't your typical, slow, expensive, complicated, closed government information system. According to the press release:

The DC Government developed the Circulator bus mobile application in house, completing the project remarkably quickly and at minimal cost ... As an "open source" application, any municipality with a similar bus system and real-time GPS data can adapt and implement the application at minimal cost ...

All Circulator data is being made publicly available to encourage other developers in our area to build their own, better applications. The intention is that the tools made available by the District Government would be replicated by other transit agencies across the country, allowing it to transform the way transit information is shared.

DC is working on an iPhone application, which they hope to launch in late summer.

Once Metro launches NextBus, it would be great to find ways to integrate the two. Can NextBus load in the Circulator data as well, or at least provide links from its interface? Most likely, that would take substantial inter-agency coordination and cost WMATA money in development costs. A better approach would be for Metro to create a simple Web services interface to NextBus, allowing other applications to query it for data. That would allow enterprising developers to build applications that show the fastest bus route from one point to another on Metrobus or Circulator.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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You may want to read this blog post about Nextbus. It sounds like they're pretty stingy in allowing public access to the data they create even though they get the information from a public agency. It sounds like maybe WMATA could provive the GPS locations of all the buses, but Nextbus is the company that actually owns the arrival predictions.

by inlogan on Jun 26, 2009 3:50 pm • linkreport

How about a link? I tracked it down, it is:

by Jay on Jun 26, 2009 3:57 pm • linkreport

Inlogan, If you actually read the blog you'll see that the NextBus that is doing WMATA is not the same company referenced in the blog.

As for the "service" just launched for the DC Circulator, it's about the stupidest thing I've ever seen. It's absolutely worthless to a passenger. Go to a NextBus page and you'll see the times of the next three buses, you can see the buses on a map, etc. etc. And all this available on the web, on mobile phones, using an IVR system to dial-in (great for seniors), using SMS Texting (great for students), etc. And since Where's my Bus was built "in-house" for one small system, it's unlikely to be maintained. Both MIT and Georgia Tech tried to build "in-house" systems - now they both use NextBus.

by TransitNut on Jun 26, 2009 4:21 pm • linkreport

Oops, I had the link in the original post but a typo made it not appear. Fixed.

by David Alpert on Jun 26, 2009 4:25 pm • linkreport

WMATA is using the same company as Muni

by inlogan on Jun 26, 2009 4:37 pm • linkreport

I tested this out this evening on my way home from work. Spot. On. Well done, Circulator team!

WMATA, your hand?

by Michael on Jun 26, 2009 8:22 pm • linkreport

Very happy about this news, but something seems amiss when I test it out at home. Either I can't figure out how it works or there are still some bugs in the software. It's telling me that the closest bus to 24th and Calvert is at 14th and I, and that the closest bus to 24th and Connecticut is at 24th and Calvert.

Also the Woodley-McPherson line asks if you are headed to McPherson or Adams Morgan (not Woodley). That is confusing.

by Matt L on Jun 27, 2009 12:55 am • linkreport

inlogan: you are dead wrong. NextBus is NOT the company mentioned in the blog posts. NextBus Information Systems is, and has nothing to do with NextBus. NBIS is a couple of scam artists bent on using the NextBus name for evil purposes.

by inlogan is wrong on Jun 27, 2009 8:19 pm • linkreport

How 'bout in stead of wondering about when the next bus actually comes, we just try and find a way (bus lanes, priority lanes, smart traffic lights) to get buses to ride on time...

by Jasper on Jun 28, 2009 1:22 pm • linkreport

This is what I've been saying for years. Just do the fundamentals right, then move on to the flashier things. (But that's so much more boring!) And yes, priority lanes and the ability to control the lights would help immensely.

by Jazzy on Jun 28, 2009 7:00 pm • linkreport

Now if only they could use some of this whiz-bang technology to stop bus bunching, we'd be all set. While walking my dog along Mass Ave last night, I was passed by 4 Circulator busses within 5 minutes, 3 of which were within 1 minute of each other, 2 of which were bumper to bumper.

by StopBusBunching on Jun 29, 2009 9:32 am • linkreport

Any word on an xml/rss/other than html output from this?

by Mike on Jun 29, 2009 12:47 pm • linkreport

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