Starting Tuesday, hundreds of electronic signs that display Muni arrival predictions at transit shelters will go dark as a result of AT&T’s nationwide 3G network shutdown.
In a Feb. 11 blog post, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency warned that more than 650 NextBus transit shelter displays will no longer function. Push-to-talk buttons used by visually impaired riders will also be inoperable.
SFMTA’s Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin reported to the agency’s Board of Directors last week that staff planned a “perfect sync” for replacing shelter equipment, but said global supply chain issues delayed the process.
According to Tumlin, the agency is working to ensure arrival prediction times are posted at some high-traffic locations.
“We’re rearranging our existing services in order to make sure that we can continue to have real-time predictions at locations where we have the most riders and in particular, riders who have the least likelihood of being able to have their own technology be able to provide them with predictions.”
Multilingual signage will be posted at transit stops to help passengers access NextBus information by scanning a QR code with their mobile phone, contacting the agency’s Twitter account during business hours or by calling 311 or 511. Access to arrival time information on mobile or web versions of NextBus will not be impacted.
This is not the first time the agency has experienced NextBus technology issues. The system was similarly impacted when AT&T terminated its 2G network at the end of 2016.
SFMTA deputy spokesperson Stephen Chun said the agency was aware in April 2021 of the impending 3G shutdown, adding that project staff expedited 4G kit procurement to keep arrival prediction signs working in at least some transit shelters.
In the meantime, the agency said they will expedite delivery and installation of new LCD displays under its Next Generation Customer Information System project. City officials in 2020 approved a nearly $89 million contract to procure more than 700 24-inch LCD displays that will provide real-time arrival information and minimize “ghost bus” issues.
The SFMTA said its supplier has so far shipped more than 150 displays but that the agency is waiting on brackets needed to complete installations. Once the brackets arrive, officials said they will coordinate with Clear Channel to prioritize installation in low-income neighborhoods and on routes with less frequent service.
The new displays are expected to go live in the fall, transit officials said.
Jerold serves as a reporter and San Francisco Bureau Chief for SFBay covering transportation, City Hall, and the Mayor's Office in San Francisco. His work on transportation has been recognized by the San Francisco Press Club. Born and raised in San Francisco, he graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism. Jerold previously wrote for the San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization. When not reporting, you can find Jerold taking Muni to check out new places to eat in the city.