SFMTA targets 2019 for NextBus replacement

San Francisco Muni riders had a rough start to 2017 when the NextBus prediction system went on the fritz during most of January, and riders had barely a clue when their next bus or train was arriving.

Now that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency looks to put out a request for proposals to replace the prediction system, the transit agency may extend the contract with NextBus Inc. for at least one more year.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the SFMTA Board of Directors will decide if they will extend the contract with NextBus for an additional year, until July 1, 2018, and allow the SFMTA Director of Transportation to extend the contract for another 12 months at his discretion.

If approved, the contract amount would increase by $3.8 million, with the total contract increasing to $13 million.

During the NextBus outage, transit officials said the cause of the equipment failure was due to an issue involving AT&T’s 2G cellular network, which was decommissioned in 2016. The NextBus, or NextMuni system, as known to riders, relied heavily on the 2G network to transmit data, including the location of a Muni buses and trains.

The NextBus system is part of the SFMTA’s Automatic Vehicle Location System (AVLS). The system provides real-time vehicle locations for SFMTA management and expected arrival times of Muni buses and trains for riders, according to a SFMTA staff report.

The report added that the technology currently used by the AVLS is likely to become “outdated” and will require the use of expensive cellular infrastructure, the report said.

SFMTA officials anticipate to complete the request for proposals process in early 2018, and the replacement of the current AVLS implemented before July 2019.