SFMTA: Inaccurate NextBus Predictions Will Take 'Weeks to Restore'

Over the past week, SFMTA riders have been frustrated by inaccurate NextBus predictions and tracking at stops and on their apps. Many have been left to wait for a train or bus that never arrives, an issue that is still happening today. 

Now, the SFMTA says that the inaccurate predictions that have been plaguing the NextMuni system, also known as NextBus, are expected to last several weeks.

"The inaccurate predictions are due to a technical issue that we’re working aggressively to resolve," explained Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA. "At this point, we expect it will take at least a matter of weeks to restore and phase in all missing Muni predictions."

The agency expects to have more information and provide a detailed timeline on when a fix will happen by early next week, he added.

The issue lies in the outdated technology underlying NextMuni. First installed in 2002, data is transmitted through AT&T's 2G wireless mobile network, which is now being deactivated. 

"Simply put, the deactivation work that affects our vehicles started sooner than expected and outpaced our ongoing upgrade of all Muni vehicles to a new communications and monitoring system," said Rose.

However, the deactivation date has been known for years. AT&T first noted in an SEC filing back in 2012 that it intended to sunset its legacy system on January 1, 2017.

Nearly 70 percent of Muni's fleet—including all of the light trail trains—are affected by the issue, the SFMTA confirmed on its blog today. Vehicles that haven't been upgraded are not able to transmit the information that allows for predictions in the NextMuni signs and the NextBus app.

One small point of relief for riders: the newer trains and buses that arrived in 2013 are not affected. The NextBus system is also expected to be updated in 2018 as part of a larger, comprehensive overhaul. 

In the meantime, the SFMTA asks riders to check its Twitter account for the latest updates on delays. And to help riders better predict arrival times, the agency posted a frequency timetable for all Muni bus and rail lines at the end of its blog post today.

"We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and understand how important this information is to Muni riders," Rose said.

Thanks to Sarah E. for the tip.

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