State Dispatches Team To Smoke Out Bus-App Flaw

Markeshia Ricks Photo A crew from the state Department of Transportation is heading to New Haven to ride the bus — and see how to make it easier to catch the bus.

The DOT team plans spend a day or two here either this week or next to follow up on complaints that a new CT Transit GPS app is failing just when riders need it most, according to agency spokesman Kevin Nursick.

DOT’s CT Transit this year equipped all New Haven buses with GPS linked to an app riders can download to track where buses are running: if they’re late, if they’re on time, where they are at the moment. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

City officials had clamored for years for the service. DOT originally promised it in 2015, then, thanks to delays and unforeseen promises, took a couple of years to put it in place. (You can now access it here.)

No one was more excited for the app than city transit chief Doug Hausladen, who had led the push for the app. Then he was disappointed the first time he tried to use it. He arrived at a bus stop early to catch a ride home to City Point. When the bus was late, he checked the app to see if it was on its way. Instead he got a blank screen; no sign of that bus. Yet the bus arrived, six or eight minutes later than scheduled.

It turned out that because of a quirk in the app, it stopped showing any information about any bus that was late. Even though a main purpose of the app was to let people know if they should continue waiting for a bus or not.

The Independent detailed the problem in this Sept. 22 article, and readers chimed in. The DOT promised to look into it.

The problem apparently remains, as this reporter discovered on the way home this Monday evening. The app was showing the westbound 246 bus (formerly known as the Q) running a minute or two late on Winthrop Avenue around 6:30 p.m. Then it showed it running three minutes late. Then five. Then, at the scheduled time of arrival, all information about the bus disappeared from the app. The app reported that the next bus would arrive in about an hour. Instead, the actual bus arrived around five minutes later.

Informed of the continued problem, DOT spokesman Nursick reposnded that the DOT team will come to New Haven to check it out. The crew will test the app and try to replicate the problem.

“We have not experienced these errors first hand, but don’t question the fact that some riders are experiencing problems,” Nursick said. “We think the best way to get to the bottom of this is to be out there in the field for an entire day or two, and to see what our results are.”

Nursick urged riders to continue letting DOT know of any such problems with the new system.

“Feedback is important,” he said. “We want it. You work out the bugs [that way]. Keep it coming!”

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on November 8, 2017  4:52pm

It’s not a quirk, it’s a bug. If an app can’t handle the notion of a bus being late, then I don’t know what’s going on.

I find that the 243 is generally on time, but the 246 to Edgewood Ave? Who knows. I’m not waiting for it. No idea if that thing will show up. TransitApp said it should leave around 5:20 from Green yesterday. I just… never saw it. Waited until like 5:35 on York/Chapel and just took the next 243 since at least those show up.

The late night buses are even worse, when they combine routes. I think the late night bus drivers don’t update the GPS very often. I was waiting for like 8 minutes for the FBZ to show up (no idea what it’s called now) and gave up cause the app showed nothing, as I’m walking by bam bus rolls by, but I had my bike and couldn’t get him to stop for that. (Fair enough).

The app is, in general, a great idea. This morning I saw the 243 on my GPs and knew exactly when it would arrive and it was great. But if they’re late, no idea.

posted by: mcg2000 on November 8, 2017  5:27pm

I commented about the app taking late buses off the board with respect to the last article and wrote to Paul Bass with screenshots. Today, a late 229 bus (formerly J4) was taken off the board after it was more than 4 minutes late. I feel validated and hope this glitch is fixed so we indeed know if a late bus is still en route or not coming at all (for exampl due to a bus breakdown.)  Thank you, Mr. Bass and all who vocalized these problems.

posted by: RobotShlomo on November 9, 2017  4:42am

Why is it that my GPS can make adjustments on the fly when I back off the gas and reduce speed by 5mph, yet this can’t?

posted by: mcg2000 on November 9, 2017  7:45am

Also, while In Transit can be used in other cities as well such as NYC, in NYC and Chicago they have other transit tracking systems which I found were good. In Chicago, you could text a number at a bus stop to find out when the next buses would be arriving. In NYC, you can track how far away a bus is in real time (I think both through text and an app.) This is especially helpful when you’re in Queens and you’re trying to determine whether you should wait for the express bus into Manhattan or take a local bus to the Subway. If In Transit worked seamlessly for CT Transit, that would be great so when you have a choice of two lines to get somewhere such as the old J7 bus or the 02 bus from New Haven to Milford, you could actually make a choice based on using the app. I do like the feature that once you’re on the bus, it tracks how far away you are from your stop.

posted by: katayers on November 9, 2017  9:05am

Yes! I gave up even trying to use the long-awaited tracking app because it tells me the next bus is 85 minutes away, and then 7 minutes later my bus comes.  Please fix this.  Google maps knows where every stinking cell phone is, how can Transit not find a BUS? Please please fix this.

posted by: witchininthekitchen on November 9, 2017  9:15am

I find the app kind of cumbersome but if I can at least see the bus somewhere on the line coming, it does help. But, the bus can’t always be seen nor do I know if the bus is just not coming. And I can’t see where the bus is before it reaches the Green…? I think this system needs a bit more tweeking.

posted by: 1644 on November 9, 2017  10:44am

NHI previously reported that Yale’s shuttle has a functioning tracking system.  Why can’t CTDoT just look at Yale’s program?  I think we all understand bugs in new systems, but this one has been going on far too long, and negates the entire usefulness of the program.