The Low-Down on NextBus SMS Feeds
I admit. I donâ€™t own an iPhone or any Bluetooth-enable device. Therefore, Iâ€™m stuck relying on dumb luck and the occasional NextBus kiosk to catch a timely bus. So after reading Bethâ€™s blog about the NextBus text messaging service, I got pretty excited. Would this mean I wouldnâ€™t have to text a friend anymore to get the next 33 outbound? Donâ€™t hold your breath, friends.
Last week, all week, I put the SMS system to the test, texting for Nextbus predictions. And hereâ€™s what I found: the system works â€“ sort of. The key is to be exact about the text and coding of your messages. The NextBus site tries to explain the way the system works, but fails on many accounts. So Iâ€™ve put together a barebones how-to guide to get you through the rough patches. Iâ€™ll keep playing around with the system and make updates as needed. But hereâ€™s the low, low down:
Starting the message: Every message needs to start with â€œNbus muni.â€
Specifying an address/intersection: If you donâ€™t know the route number or just want to find the next bus coming your way, use the street address or intersection. For example, â€œhaight & claytonâ€ or â€œ2010 haight.â€ The entire text message would be:
Nbus muni 2010 haightÂ Â Â ORÂ Â Nbus muni haight & clayton
Specifying a bus line: To specify a bus line (AKA route number) at your location, add â€œrâ€ plus the line. For example, â€œr43â€ specifies the 43 line. The entire text message would be:
Nbus muni r43 haight & clayton
The not-very-useful â€œnâ€ command: When Muni texts you back with predictions, you can respond by texting â€œnâ€ back. This gives you either arrival predictions for the next bus going by your location (like the 7 line if the previous predictions were for the 6 line) or the next direction (such as outbound or inbound).Â Thereâ€™s no way to tell â€“ or specify â€“ what youâ€™re going to get.
Specifying the direction: You canâ€™t, so donâ€™t try! This part pissed me off the most. Often, Nextbus responded with outbound bus predictions when I wanted inbound bus predictions. How do you circumvent this? You can try two things:
– Respond with the â€œnâ€ command. Youâ€™ll either receive information for the next direction, the next line, or the super annoying â€œGoing beyond end of selection.â€ Arg!
– If you specified a route, create a new message specifying an address or intersection. If you get the wrong direction, respond with the â€œnâ€ command.
Saving a stop: Save a stop that you’d like to save in the future by responding to NextBus with â€œs STOPNAME,â€ and Nextbus will remember it for next time. For example â€œs schoolâ€ saves your location as the stop for your school. The next time you want predictions for that stop, just text â€œNbus school.â€