WMATA aims to display real-time arrival info at important bus stops

According to TBD, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has issued a request for proposals from contractors to install what the request calls “Customer Information Electronic Display Signs” at important Metro stations and along high-usage Metrobus corridors. If all goes according to plan, the first 30 arrival data signs will be in place by the end of June.

While many bus stops won’t see the new technology installed for many months or at all, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania Avenues are probable candidates for early installation, which is good news for Hoyas commuting to and from work or internships downtown.

However, installing the signs is only the first step for a transit system that has increasingly become a joke. Real-time data displays for Metrorail are often incorrect, and displaying data doesn’t do anything to address Metro’s frequent rush-hour delays and mechanical breakdowns.

D.C. transportation blogger Kurt Raschke also challenged WMATA to use cheaper, open source options for the signs, instead of relying on an expensive IT firm. Citing the success of New York City’s BusTime, an open-source program that displays real-time info for Staten Island buses, he called for Metro to live up to it’s branding as “America’s Subway” and lead the country in exploiting new technologies

“WMATA should make a commitment to technological excellence, and part of that should include breaking away from the usual routine of squandering riders’ dollars on IT vendors who will, inevitably, overpromise and underdeliver,” Raschke wrote on his blog.

WMATA hopes to eventually install 800 signs in its roughly 2,400 Metrobus shelters in the region. To put these numbers in perspective, Metro services over 12,000 bus stops. High-usage stops with shelters, like those outside the social Safeway on Wisconsin, are likely to eventually receive real-time arrival displays.

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