Over three-and-a-half years ago Sound Transit launched a study to solve the myriad problems blocking proper real-time arrival information at Link Stations. Since that time, the returns have been meager: ST took responsibility for OneBusAway from the University of Washington. OneBusAway still reports only scheduled data for Link. Only the two U-Link stations have onsite displays of next train times, which have problems of their own. These issues will soon be resolved, while onsite info at the other stations is nowhere in sight.
First, the good news: beginning sometime in January 2017, OneBusAway (and any other application using the data feed) will display actual next train times for OneBusAway. Not only will mobile devices have accurate information, ST’s IT department says that a software upgrade last September “improved the accuracy of the ETA data” for Capitol Hill and UW Stations.
Unfortunately, there is no clear path to upgrading the other existing stations. The existing “dynamic” screens are severely limited and cannot accept the heavily processed data feed that OBA uses. The study estimated the total cost of replacing the screens at $475,000, which ST deemed “prohibitive.” Blocked there, ST is looking at a “feasibility study” that will figure out what can be done with the existing system, how much it will cost, and funding sources for the work.
ST could not provide a timeline for this project, but they “remain very committed to finding ways to provide Link arrival and departure information to our riders, and to have this information available on station platforms and in other convenient ways.” It sounds like it’ll be quite a while before we have universal RTA signs, much less ones that list the length of trains (as pictured in Washington, DC, above).