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Metro adds real-time alerts to trip planner, albeit with bugs

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Photo - Metro's trip planner
Metro's trip planner
Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro has added real-time alerts for track work, elevator outages and other problems to its online trip planner. But the alerts have some bugs, initially failing to show a weekend rail shutdown while also showing inaccurate fares, The Washington Examiner found.

Now, the transit agency said it is adjusting the system after being notified of the problems.

"The important message as far as I'm concerned is that this new functionality represents a significant improvement to customers because they can now see if there is an alert or advisory that could affect their travel right from the trip planner," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

The transit agency added the capability about two weeks ago, he said. Metro previously had the warnings and alerts listed on the website but in a different place than the trip planner, meaning that riders unfamiliar with the site could miss them.

The change is especially important now that the agency regularly does extensive track work and repairs to elevators and escalators that could waylay riders. Unplanned problems also regularly delay rail trips.

The newly integrated tool did show a warning that the Bethesda elevator is out of service for scheduled work when The Washington Examiner ran a trip through the planner. It also showed delays for a switch problem in real time, a boon to riders.

However, it failed to explain this past weekend's shutdown on the Red Line for a trip scheduled after 11:31 p.m. Friday between Grosvenor and Metro Center. The train system was closed from Grosvenor to Friendship Heights from 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday for track work, with riders boarding free shuttle buses to bridge the gap.

While the planner did not give a direct rail trip, reflecting the shutdown, it did not list any advisories about the closure. It also routed the imaginary rider to two Ride On buses or a Metrobus to bridge the gap, rather than the free shuttles.

One itinerary sent the rider backward, up to Twinbrook by rail, where the rider was supposed to catch a bus to Wheaton on the other end of the Red Line to then take the train to Metro Center.

The prices were also off, showing trips costing $4 and $6.70 instead of $2.90, as Stessel said it should have with the free shuttle.

Later the same day, hours after The Examiner had asked questions about it, the planner did show the free shuttle bus and advisory because the agency adjusted the program, Stessel said.

Yet it still showed the wrong cost of $2.40. And the same trip scheduled for the next day was listed as costing too little, at $1.55.

Stessel said the tool was inaccurately showing a 50-cent discount for the free shuttle. "We'll make appropriate corrections," he said after alerted of the continuing discrepancy.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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