Thursday, July 07, 2011

NextBus has an iPhone app for Los Angeles METRO

Yes, Metro has finally ditched it's own worse-than-useless app and joined the early aughts. They are now using NextBus' proven app that relies on the buses own GPS tracking to tell when, well, the next bus is coming. While it's better than nothing, here's a few reasons I find it be be kind of a fail. (disclaimer- this opinion is based upon a month of using the app daily on my commute from Beverly Hills to downtown and around the Westside. Your mileage may vary)

  • It's not accurate. I've stood on the corner in the morning where the app insists that my next bus is 7 or 8 minutes away, while I can see it turning onto my street. Conversely, I've had it insist that the bus has arrived and gone past when it hasn't shown up yet.
  • It's not accurate. There are holes in the GPS coverage big enough to, well, hide a city bus in. For the past two days NextBus has told me that the bus I was waiting for was coming in 15 minutes. When I walk to the stop then it insists that the next bus is in 50 minutes. Thinking that perhaps the bus had broken down I got the car to drive to work. Today when I was pulling out of the alley, I saw the phantom bus turning onto my street.
  • It's not accurate. METRO is notorious for running truncated lines. This app will insist that the #4 bus coming is going to Santa Monica when it's only going to West LA. The same thing happens if you're taking the 14, 16, 20, 704 and 720. In other words, every bus that I take.
  • It's not accurate. In areas crowded with bus stops, the app cannot be set to drill down to show you what bus is stopping at the place you are actually standing at. It will tell you every bus in a certain radius, forcing you to scroll through multiple screens to get the bus you want, every time you check. Not so bad if you want to know when the next #14 is coming (although it will still lie to you and tell you it's going to Beverly Hills when it's not) but when you're at the stop for the 728 if can be a bit annoying.
In other words, it has an accuracy issue. If you don't rely upon it to tell you exactly where and when the bus that you want to take is coming, then you're golden. Then again, if you can't rely upon it to tell you where and when the next bus is coming, then what's the point?

Photo: Apple