News & Politics

Goodbye, Ghost Buses

A DC transit annoyance should finally be ending.

If you’ve ever had the experience of scrupulously checking busETA and making it to your stop with time to spare, only to wait for a bus that doesn’t arrive, your troubles with ghost buses may be coming to an end.

The real-time bus tracking system on Metro’s website, busETA, allows riders to see where a bus is and when it will arrive at their stop. But  customers frequently report buses that appear on busETA and do not arrive at the stop, often termed ghost buses.

On the site, a blue bus indicates a “real-time” bus, updated with GPS location, and a gray bus indicates a “scheduled” bus. Metro has made technology upgrades to the information system so that busETA will provide real-time Metro alerts and advisories next to arrival times, as well as more clearly indicating when the bus system is using scheduled data, as opposed to GPS location.

Previously, when buses were taken out of service for mechanical issues, operator availability, or any other problems, the scheduled buses would still appear on busETA. Now, if a bus is not operating according to schedule, it will not appear on the route. If the GPS tracker on the bus is not working, the bus may still appear according to scheduled data.

The accuracy improvements have already gone into effect on the desktop and mobile application, and displays at bus stop locations are set to improve in the coming weeks. The data upgrades will also be included in forthcoming updates to Google Maps, Transit App, and other third party applications.


Katie Kenny
Editorial Fellow