Frequently Asked Questions

Please read the FAQ below for background and tips on using Next Bus. If you have additional questions, please contact Metro's customer service.

About Next Bus Predictions

Using This Site

What do the Next Bus screen messages mean?

Privacy Policy

 

What is Next Bus?

Next Bus is a service designed to help both you and your bus get to your stop at the same time. It uses satellite technology to find the specific location of a bus then sends the estimated arrival time of the bus at a particular stop to the customer via mobile devices, like cell phones, Metro’s Web site and electronic signs at select bus stops. Metro tested the service in 2007 but paused it to make technological upgrades needed for improved accuracy of the bus stop arrival times.

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When will Next Bus service begin?

Metro is re-launching the service July 1, 2009.

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How does Next Bus work?

Next Bus uses Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology and advanced computer modeling to track buses on their routes. Taking into account the actual position of the transit vehicles, their intended stops, and the typical traffic patterns, Next Bus predicts bus arrivals with a high degree of accuracy. Estimates are updated constantly as vehicles are tracked.

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How accurate are the predictions?

Next Bus technology tracks buses on their routes every 120 seconds and the information sent via the Internet is updated every minute. The accuracy of predictions vary depending upon many factors, including changes in traffic patterns, accidents, etc. Therefore, Next Bus cannot specify a precise overall accuracy. In general though, the margin of error is less than one minute for predictions of five minutes away or less. For ten-minute predictions, the margin of error is less than two minutes. Predictions are biased slightly early to avoid people missing buses.

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What are the benefits of the system?

The Next Bus system puts the customer in control. Even when you know what the schedule is, there are any number of reasons that vehicles may not arrive when expected. Heavy traffic, breakdowns, and other unforeseen problems can delay or completely interrupt service. By using Next Bus to determine when the next vehicle is going to arrive, you can minimize time spent waiting for a bus. Specifically, you can determine exactly when to leave home or the office in order to meet the bus.

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Are there fees for using Next Bus?

Metro charges no fees for using Next Bus. But you may be assessed data or air-time charges from your cell phone or Internet provider if you exceed your monthly limits.

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Why are there Next Bus signs posted at bus stops?

Metro has been posting Next Bus signs or decals at Metrobus stops and bus shelters throughout the region. The round, red, white and blue Next Bus sign posted at a Metrobus stop includes a unique, identifying bus stop number and the phone number to call to get real-time bus arrival information for that bus stop. Signs currently are being posted at about 12,000 Metrobus stops in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

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How do you use the service?

Beginning July 1, call 202-637-7000 or visit MetroOpensDoors.com or wmata.com. Telephone Look for the bus stop number on the Next Bus sign located at the Metrobus stop or get it from Metro’s Web site: MetroOpensDoors.com or wmata.com. Or call 202-637-7000. Say “Next Bus” when prompted. Enter your bus stop number and bus route number when prompted. You will hear the estimated arrival time of the next bus at your stop. Online Go to MetroOpensDoors.com and click on the link to the Next Bus page, enter the bus stop ID number or select your bus route from the drop down menu. Choose the direction you are traveling and select your bus stop from the list. Next Bus will provide the estimated arrival time of the next bus at your stop. Please note that actual arrival times may be affected by changes in weather or traffic conditions. You also can get the bus arrival times on other wireless devices such as PDAs. If you are using a bus stop with an LED sign, the information on the next bus’ arrival will be posted for you to see.

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How many Next Bus arrival times can I see or hear for a particular route and stop?

Up to three for the primary selected route, and other routes servicing the stop also can show up for up to two hours from the buses scheduled arrival times.

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How many Metrobus stops are there?

About 12,000

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How many Metrobus routes and lines are there?

183 Metrobus lines and 335 Metrobus routes.

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How many locations have the electronic signs and where are the locations?

There are 38 electronic signs that will show bus arrival times. They are located at the Friendship Heights, Anacostia, and Pentagon rails stations and along the Ballston/Rosslyn corridor. Speakers also will announce arrival times for the visually-impaired at the locations.

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Will there be electronic signs added to other locations?

Additional signs will be added to the Silver Spring transit center when it is complete. We also are reviewing other busy locations where electronic signs may be added in the future.

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What could happen to cause a prediction to be wrong?

Unexpected detours, accidents, traffic slowdowns and severe weather can cause predictions to be less accurate. Broken bus equipment also can cause predictions to not be available for that bus.

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What will happen on holidays?

Depending upon the holiday, Metrobus will run a Saturday, Sunday or weekday schedule. Predicted bus arrival times will be affected by the unusual traffic patterns and other factors unique to a holiday. The predicted arrival times will not be as accurate on detoured routes during special events, such as the Fourth of July. For a complete holiday schedule list, please visit http://www.wmata.com/rail/schedules/holiday_schedules.cfm

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What is the cost of the program?

Metro has made about $3 million in needed capital investments and upgrades. Metro pays Next Bus about $223,000 a year in operating costs for the service.

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Can I bookmark my bus stop?

Yes, you can bookmark the arrival predictions page for the bus stops you use. This will save you having to select your route and stop each time you use Next Bus. Bookmarking only works, however, if your browser is set to accept cookies.

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Why do I have to specify the "From Stop" and "To Stop"?

Sometimes there are multiple routes that go to where you want to go. The Next Bus system can provide predictions for all possible routes that serve your stops, as long as you specify both the stop where you are boarding ("From Stop") and your destination stop ("To Stop"). Also, there are some routes that have multiple destinations. If your destination is only served by some of the vehicles for your route, selecting your destination ensures that you will only see predictions for vehicles going to your destination. If only one route serves the stop where you board, specifying "To Stop" is unnecessary.

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Does the site offer access for the visually impaired?

Yes, the accessible version has an especially streamlined interface optimized for accessibility and performance for visually impaired customers and mobile-device users.

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How does the system remember the last stop I specified?

The Next Bus system uses a browser cookie to keep track of the last stop for which real-time arrival information was obtained on your computer.

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Do I need to have cookies enabled?

You can obtain real-time predictions even if cookies are disabled. Cookies are only used to remember the last stop for which you wanted predictions and to support animated bus locations on the live map. So while this feature is not necessary, it can make it quicker for you to get your desired information.

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Do I need to have javascript enabled?

No. You can obtain real-time predictions even if you have javascript disabled. If javascript is not available or is turned off, you will automatically be directed to our non-javascript pages. The interface will be somewhat different but you will still get the same information.

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Do I need to have Java enabled?

Java applets are only used for displaying real-time maps showing where the vehicles are on the desired route. If you have Java disabled, or are using a browser that cannot run applets, you will still be able to access all other features on the Next Bus website with the exception of route maps.

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Why does the interface sometimes look different?

Because Web browsers vary widely, we have created two websites: a full-featured one that is available on Netscape and Internet Explorer (version 4.0 or higher) browsers, and a simpler one that runs on all other browsers. Therefore you will see a different site depending on which browser you use. Also, if you have javascript disabled, you will automatically be routed to the simpler site.

Both sites provide exactly the same prediction information. The only difference is in how you specify the stop for which you want prediction information.

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Where do I find schedules?

A link to schedules is provided when possible. They are available on both the stop selector page and on the real-time predictions page.

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Where do I find maps showing where the vehicles are?

When maps are available for a route, they are accessible from both the stop selector page and on the real-time predictions page.

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Why doesn't the map application work?

The map application is a Java applet. If you don't have a Java compliant browser, or if you have Java turned off, you won't be able to view the maps.

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Which browsers are supported?

The Next Bus website is supported on all Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers. It is also supported on Opera and WebTV browsers.

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What do the Next Bus screen messages mean?

No current prediction
No information is available at the moment. Check again in a few minutes. A prediction likely will be available shortly.

Possible reasons for this message include:

  • There is no vehicle between the beginning of the route and your stop. You are especially like to receive this message if your stop is near the beginning of a route. Wait a few minutes and a prediction should appear.
  • No vehicles are currently scheduled to run. Consult the schedule link for details.
  • Vehicles are running but not ones with the required tracking equipment.
  • Vehicles are deviating from their usual routes.

No service scheduled
No vehicles are expected to operate at this time. Check timetables for more details.

More than X minutes
No vehicle is nearby. The Next Bus system has determined it will be at least X minutes before the vehicle arrives, but cannot specify an exact wait time. As soon as the vehicle moves, the wait time will be updated.

To restart predictions: Click here
You have left the computer idle for an extended period. Simply click or reload the page to restart predictions.

NextBus applet not running
Your Web browser stopped displaying predictions. Reload the page to restart it again.

Please wait...
Wait a few seconds, or reload the page.

0 minutes
A vehicle is at, or very near, your stop.

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Is my privacy protected?

Next Bus does not track your identity. The system only keeps track of the last stop selected on your computer. If you choose, you can even eliminate this record by turning off the cookies for your browser. You will still be able to obtain predictions.

For cell phone, PDA, and SMS sites Next Bus will only use any collected information for providing passenger information to you. Next Bus will NOT use this information for any other purpose nor sell or distribute this information to any other organization.

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