Alert warning system planned for Metrobus in Washington

Source: The Washington Examiner
Metrobus riders soon will be able to get electronic warnings about delays to their bus trips similar to the ones rail riders already receive, according to the transit agency.
Metro is hiring a three-person team to add to its communications staff for the sole purpose of sending alerts to riders about bus service problems, spokesman Dan Stessel told The Washington Examiner. The team will work out of the agency’s bus operations control center in Prince George’s County, sitting alongside dispatchers and cameras to find out what is happening with the hundreds of buses out on the road.
The staff will send out email alerts about major disruptions such as motorcades, nasty traffic jams and the like that keep buses from getting where they are supposed to go.
«The thinking is that customers will be able to sign up for their bus service by line or lines,» Stessel said.
The push comes as Metro tries to make riding the bus more appealing to take the pressure off the rail system. It also has been trying to improve its communication with riders systemwide, a sore spot for years.
Currently rail riders can sign up to receive e-alerts that let them know about delays along the train lines they ride. Recently, the agency rolled out an elevator alert system, as well, so riders who need to use the elevators can better plan their trips.
But so far bus riders have been left out. It’s a far more complicated system in some ways as Metro has more than 1,200 buses on the roads during the daily rush.
In July 2009, Metro created the NextBus system that uses GPS technology to predict when the next bus is coming. But that system cannot take into account disruptions along the line, nor does it reach out to riders directly.
The new bus alert service will be active only on weekdays to start, Stessel said. But the staffers will be on-call at other times to post alerts for major disruptions, he said.
Stessel said the agency has posted the jobs listings and has received resumes. They hope to have it up and running by the end of the year, he said.
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