Dear PoP – Metro Real Time Bus Service is Spot On!

Crazy new streetcar-style Metrobuses, originally uploaded by jsmjr.

“Dear PoP,

I gotta say, this morning, I called to get the time for the 64 bus at Grant Circle and it was accurate to the minute! Way to go metro! If their new system works over the long haul, will make it much more viable to take the bus in this town…

Program re-started today. Had some glitches in earlier trials.

Works on-line and by phone….

Each participating stop now has a small round sign, with a phone number and a bus station ID.”

I’m not much of a bus rider but this sounds awesome. Anyone else give it a shot yet? Did you have similar results?

There is also a press release from DDOT announcing “Where’s My Bus” for the Circulator, after the jump.

Washington, D.C. – Mayor Adrian M. Fenty along with the District Department of Transportation, Office of Planning, and Office of the Chief Technology Officer today launched a mobile technology application designed to provide residents, visitors, and commuters with a convenient and efficient tool to assist in their day-to-day travels within the city. “Where’s My Bus?” is a new mobile application for DC’s popular Circulator bus and is one of the first tools to provide real time information on the location of a rider’s bus, through a simple, easy to use interface.

By simply going to from any Internet-ready mobile device, the new Where’s My Bus? mobile application lets riders select a Circulator route and bus stop to find out how close the next bus is whether they are at home, the office, or on the go. The application uses real-time GPS data so bus riders can have up-to-the-minute information on all Circulator buses at their fingertips.

The DC Government developed the Circulator bus mobile application in house, completing the project remarkably quickly and at minimal cost – it was a joint agency effort to improve the public transit experience using available staff expertise and resources. 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 to increase the convenience of using transit and ultimately improve mobility in our urban areas.

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.

The DC Circulator surface transit service was launched in July 2005 and has transported more than 8 million workers, residents and visitors quickly and inexpensively around central Washington since its inception. The Circulator has five routes connecting through the District’s commercial core, the 43 buses have low floors, multiple doors for easy on-and-off service, and large windows for easy viewing along the route. The Circulator has a simple fare structure of $1 per ride making it easy for people to hop on the bus and pay cash, or purchase tickets in advance online or at curbside multi-space parking meters. Circulator buses arrive at stops every ten minutes throughout the day. Additional information and a link to the “Where’s My Bus” application can be found on the official DC Circulator web site at

Also in development is the DC Circulator Where’s My Bus for iPhone™ with advanced features, as well as an updated website highlighting all the great destinations that can be reached by a quick ride on the Circulator. The iPhone™ app adds a cool user interface and uses the iPhone’s™ location-aware technology to find the closest stop to a potential rider. The iPhone™ application is scheduled to be available in late summer.

20 Comment

  • i see lots of circulators flying past around here, but i never know WHERE they stop. the current bus stop signage has gotten confusing. it all looks alike.

  • can u use smarttrip cards on the circulator?

  • Yes on the smarttrip question. m.e. – the signage hasn’t yet been perfected. It’s best to check the map on their site.

  • This is a great service. Also, for ease, you can also just go to (works on mobile devices — iphone included — as well.

  • The NextBus technology is amazing and completely changes the Metrobus experience. Now I’m able to know when to head for the bus stop instead of having to wait around for the bus, wasting time and hoping that it’s on schedule. I wish they’d create an iPhone app for the regular Metrobus routes in addition to the Circulator.

  • Yay on NextBus! (So far, based on one day of use.) I checked it this morning, realized that the 96 was not going to show up on time, and was able to find another route that got me to work.

    Metrobus has always been the poor stepchild to the subway. It’s improved a lot in the past few years but the signs and route maps are completely confusing (when they even exist). They need a better graphic designer. Then you have the drivers who are rude and/or don’t know enough about the route to help the average person get where they’re going.

    I live a bit far from the subway (but close to many bus lines) so I was motivated to figure out the buses, but otherwise, as a casual user, I would be extremely frustrated.

  • I wish they’d follow San Francisco and have a digital clock at the bus stop indicating the next bus.

  • Perhaps i’m just a bit lazy, but I don’t see myself going through the trouble of calling or getting a ipodphone just to see where my bus is. I walk to the bus stop. Look into the street. No bus? Walk to the next bus stop. Look into the street. So on and so forth. Me and the bus usually meet up around 2-3 stops.

  • Use this link when looking up NextBus times on your phone:

    The other one won’t work on many phones, but this will work on all of them.

  • the WMATA mobile site ( has this and the trip finder on it. I have tried to use the regular trip finder site on my blackberry, and it was very clunky. But the mobile site seems pretty good.

    The google map on the main nextbus site is nice too. you can see where the busses actually are.

  • step into the 21st century tonysmallframe. for those of us who live on bus routes that are notoriously off schedule, this is a huge win. you don’t necessarily even need an iphone if you’re leaving directly from your home, office or somewhere else where you have immediate access to a pc. i used the nextbus this morning, since my house is about a 5min walk to the bus stop i just checked the times on my computer at home, saw that a bus was 9 mins away, gathered up my things and headed out. just as i got to the corner the bus came rumbling down the street. pretty simple technology that worked flawlessly today and a big difference from the 15 to 20 mins i usually end up having to stand at the corner waiting for an off schedule bus

  • It would also be nice to get something like this:

    where all the buses in an area are shown at once. Very handy if there are multiple lines that one may take. You can see if all at once, rather than selecting each line and individually checking.

  • Good step. Did not provide back the time of my bus on the bus stop I used though.. have to try again and hope it expands to all routes.

    As a side note: roughly half of the bus stops should be eliminated immediately – it’s insane that the busses stop on _every single block_. Pronto. Much faster, less annoying service, and a little excercise for people who obviously need it. Sure, Metro will say “we’ve tried and people complain”. Well, let them complain, they’ll get over it. 😀

  • Contrary to the original emailer, I tried the NextBus service for the 64 this morning, and it told me my bus was not going to come for another 35 minutes, even though wmata trip planner the night before told me it was supposed to come a few minutes after I arrived at the stop. I had seen a bus flying by as I left my apartment, so I believed the NextBus lady. I started walking. A few blocks later I had to chase the bus as it went whizzing past, right on schedule according to trip planner. I’ll try it again, but I was put off by my first attempt…

  • I also had a bad experience with using NextBus with the 64 yesterday. I checked my stop and it said the next 64 wasn’t going to come for another 20-something minutes, so I decided to walk to the 63 instead. Halfway to the stop for the 63, a 64 passes me.

    I used NextBus again today, and it seemed much more accurate. The 64 wouldn’t be coming for a while, so I went to the 63 which was said to come in 5 minutes. And it did!

    Great job!

  • I used it for the 63 this morning and it was spot on. I’m so glad to have NextBus back. And you don’t need an Iphone or blackberry, just a regular phone will work.

    Nita, I remember last time they tried out NextBus there were certain stops with electronic signs that listed the arrival times of coming buses. The stop at 7th and T southbound (by the CVS) is one I remember. Maybe they’ll bring them back and then some.

  • You guys can have all of this to the minute rush stuff. It just sounds silly. It could be that I just enjoy the wait in the morning – gives me time to say hi to the neighbors and all.

  • nothing wrong with that tonysmallframe. others just want to get to work on time. that’s all

  • I used it and it was super accurate. I guess my stop had a sign that hadn’t been misposted by WMATA, though, so I was in luck.

    Re: tonysmallframe: Normally I’d agree with you, but there are times when you’re waiting at a stop where you could take more than one bus to get to your destination, or you could opt to take rail. Granted, it’s a small difference in price, but by the time you walk the the rail, the bus may have arrived. This system (if it works in practice for the long-haul) is perfect for that specific scenario and ones similar to it.

    And re: not seeing the bus and walking to the next stop – that works if the stops are a block apart, but none more than that. For example, the distance between Clifton St. NW and Florida Avenue (both have stops for the 64) is way, way too long to risk getting stuck in the middle as the bus pulls up to run for the bus.

  • nextbus is the best thing ever to happen to metrobus. Have been using it with the L2 and 42/43 buses, and it’s been working great. Especially in the afternoon when the buses get all off schedule, this is really useful.

    The map that shows where all the buses are on the route is nice, too.

    I wonder if 100% of the buses are on the system though – I was surprised by at least one that didn’t seem to be tracked while walking to my stop yesterday.

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