By Wilson Walker

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It seemed like a great idea — a web-based tracking system called ‘Nextbus’ that allows passengers waiting to catch a ride on San Francisco Municipal Railway lines to find out when their bus or light rail train will arrive.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work.

“Today, I don’t know what the issue is with the displays,” said San Franciscan Phillip Jones as he awaited the N-Judah line. “So (it should arrive in) 64 minutes and 71 minutes. I’m glad I didn’t have to be anywhere if that’s the case.”

Jones’ N-Judah light rail train actually rolled up about 2 minutes later, but that was not the only problem.

The tracking system could tell you the 10-Townsend bus was arriving “now” but it wouldn’t show up for another 26 minutes.

“Right now, Nextbus predictions throughout the system are not accurate,” said San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Paul Rose.

The problem only gets worse as you move further away from downtown. If you get a bad prediction in Potrero Hill, you’ve lost 30 minutes to your commute before you even step on the bus.

The ‘Nextbus’ predictions come through a network involving AT&T and a company called Cubix. But at the moment, it looks like the problem falls within the Muni’s technology.

“AT&T upgraded their system from 2G to 3G, and our system could be working to catch up,” Rose said. “While we can’t say for certain, it’s one of the things we’re looking at and working with them to identify the specific problem and what the solutions might be.”

There could be come real improvement by summertime as Muni rolls out a $120 million upgrade for its dispatch and tracking system. But that doesn’t help Jones and his fellow passengers right now.

“Yeah, we certainly apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our customers, and it’s certainly something we’re working extremely hard to fix as soon as possible,” Rose said.


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