6 Minutes of Hell: King County Metro’s “Rider Information System”

May 17th, 2010

Metro #101 at Renton Transit Center (Wikimedia)

In these heady days of smartphones and OneBusAway, there isn’t really much of a purpose for call-in bus schedule information. Most of the time, a combination of printed and online timetables is sufficient. But occasionally some people might still need to call.

King County Metro has an antiquated call-in system with recorded schedule information. It is tedious to navigate, is not updated regularly, and is often wildly inaccurate. This audio clip (warning: only for masochists) is 6 minutes of hell: my unsuccessful attempt to call in and get schedule times for a very simple trip between Renton Transit Center and Renton Highlands.

I first tried bus #105, but upon selecting my bus stop (the first one they offered me!) I was told that my selection was ‘invalid’. So I tried the next one they offered me, and they proceeded to give me times for buses 143, 148, and 240, but NOT #105. So I tried another bus, #909, which I knew would bring me within two blocks of where I wanted to arrive. The same bus stop that was invalid before was now magically valid, yet then they proceeded to give me information for bus #921, a route from Bellevue to Factoria.

My point is simple. To all those who maintain these systems at King County Metro: if you’re not going to update the system, and if you don’t care about accuracy, please just shut it down. Perhaps there are legitimate excuses for not providing sufficient information, but there is absolutely NO excuse for misleading or inaccurate information.

  1. Lloyd
    May 17th, 2010 at 17:45
    Quote | #1

    If that is Standard Operating Procedures for KCMetro, then it is time to Shut It Down!

  2. G
    May 17th, 2010 at 21:42
    Quote | #2

    They are still giving info on routes that have been deleted or radically changed in September 2009 when service was changed to meet LINK. As you mentioned, I have suggested to Metro’s customer service several times that it would be better to pull the plug on this info rather than telling people that they can wait for buses that will never, ever arrive. Predictably, I got no reply and you can still get the next bus time for route 32.

  3. Linda Thielke
    May 19th, 2010 at 14:30
    Quote | #3

    Thanks Zach for the heads up on automated phone system glitch. It’s now down & we’re working on a fix. There are some serious data inconsistencies that need to be corrected. We are looking at the application and will make an assessment on what we can do to resolve these issues. We hope to complete that assessment in the next three weeks.

    –Linda Thielke, King County Metro Transit public information

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