[UPDATE]: Chapel Hill's NextBus system doesn't work in the rain?

[UPDATE]: So, there is at least one thing about which I was wrong. As you can read below in what Anglico wrote, David Price's bill did not single out NextBus. The money was earmarked for a specific set of criteria, four companies submitted pre-proposals, then two were invited to do demonstrations, and after that NextBus was chosen (not entirely) because they service the largest number of cities.
--just to clarify this, it was Chapel Hill that settled on NextBus, NOT David Price. I was just flat out wrong about this, I went with my memory of previous conversations, which turned out to be flat out wrong.

Interestingly, if it didn't have to be NextBus, then I am not sure why they chose to focus their donations on Rep. Price, lucky I guess:

Date Amount Recipient
3/22/2002 $1,000 Price, David
6/5/2002 $500 Price, David
6/24/2002 $500 Price, David
6/24/2002 ($500) Price, David
[ UPDATE: ] Turns out two lobbyists from Fleischman & Walsh gave $1,000. Aaron Fleischman gave $1,000 on 06/05/2002.
Walsh, Charles S. Fleischman & Walsh LLP/Attorney 1,000 G 09/16/2002 Annapolis MD 21401
Fleischman, Aaron Fleischman and Walsh LLP/Attorney 1,000 P 06/05/2002 Washington DC 20008

NextBus only retained FLEISCHMAN & WALSH 2001-2003 in which they paid $20K in 2001, $100K in 2002 and $80K in 2003.

The only other Congressman to receive NextBus executive’s direct largesse, Tom Davis, Republican representative for Virginia’s 11th district, got $1,000 in 2002.

Interestingly, the 11th district has a NextBus system in Alexandria.

BUT, I was wrong and I admit it. There was no quid pro quo. I like David Price - a lot. So, I admit that it was purely coincidence that he received a number of donations from a corporation that had (seemingly) never donated to him before, and who only donated to one other candidate (seemingly) and then that company received the contract for the real time system. As I note in the comments, this very likely COULD have been the companies finding out that Price was interested in the technology and then giving him money. The dates are a little fuzzy, the documents I've seen say the money came in 2003, the donations came in 2002. Still, things like this take time and it could have been 2000 when David Price starting working on it. Either way, I was wrong about the limitations.

This is local political wonk, but I know there are a bunch of Chapel Hillians that read BlueNC. Some time ago, Chapel Hill was given federal money to buy and install the "NextBus" system. There were many complaints about the system before it was installed, they went something like:

  1. David Price had this bill passed limiting our choices to NextBus.
  2. David Price got big fat contributions from the NextBus parent company.
  3. We could have installed a wireless network that would do the same thing AND allow for wireless access around every bus stop for the same price.
  4. Who pays to fix the proprietary technology once it starts breaking down? CH does.
  5. We only get a handful of "signs" for now, who pays for the extras we want?

Okay, those weren't the only complaints, but they were some of them. Now, I use NextBus every day so let me tell you a few things about it.

  1. The signs are in the wrong places, they are in every park & ride where you have a captive audience, they should be downtown.
  2. The technology uses cell phones to tell the current position. Cell phones have dead spots, like the interchange by Glen Lennox, so my V bus disappears every day as it passes through this region and it also stalls down in married student housing then pops back up later at the hospital.
  3. The technology is dumb, it doesn't learn over time. It still tells me the V bus will be at my stop WAAAAAY before it actually reaches the stop.
  4. And, today, I find out, it doesn't work in the rain.

I checked the NextBus site at my house (this webpage function does rock) to find NO buses coming for 40 minutes (V) and 25 minutes (NS). So, I walked out and headed for Weaver Street to grab some coffee and wait. As I walked AWAY from the V bus stop, guess what came by? Right, the V bus. I walked quickly to the park & ride but was too late, it was already pulling out heading to campus. So, I had another 20 minutes until the next NS bus, so I went in and grabbed a cup of coffee.

I walked out to see guess what pulling away from the park & ride? An NS bus, right. So, the system completely missed the fact that there were two buses IN SOUTHERN VILLAGE at that moment. Go figure.

I'm a fan of the idea of NextBus, but I think people like Will Raymond and Brian Russell were right when they called for a locally-produced system. Oh, and p.s., the sign at Southern Village has been torn down at least once - who paid for it?

Another thing, the security cameras, one of those was ripped out for weeks before it magically got fixed after I talked to someone on the CH Transportation Board, so are they real or are they memorex?


So, um, Robert.

For those of us out here in the sticks - what exactly is NextBus?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Right, I just added the link to their webpage, check it out.

Click "routes", deselect all, then pick a route and hover your mouse over a site.

Oh, and the signs look like this.

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

I should also mention that it is dumb...

because it doesn't integrate the schedule, so if a bus disappears it should tell you that a bus MIGHT be coming in 5 minutes based on the schedule.

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Signs and Rain

Last time I looked there where some Next Bus signs in downtown Chapel Hill. One is on E. Franklin St not far from Port Hole Alley. (in front of School Kid Records) Another is near the intersection of N. Columbia and E. Rosemary St.

Rain is a problem with all radio signals. Both WiFi radios and Cell Phone radios have this problem. But to your point of dead zones in cell coverage in Chapel Hill... its a serious problem. Part of it is aggravated by our Towns topology. Radio waves don't deal with hills, trees, or rain well. It would be nice if we had more cell towers. I understand that is an issue with the cost of private property. Sadly there is no simple technical solution to the problems you mention Robert P.

But with more ubiquitous wireless broadband coverage these gaps could be closed. I also suspect that newer wireless technologies will overcome some signal strength problems.

Yes, there are a couple.

But, if you want to increase ridership and make life easier on those who use the bus, then putting signs downtown/Eastgate/MLK/etc would make more sense than in the park & rides.

I think the network would be best with some combination, for instance would we ever have wireless coverage out by the golf course on 54? I doubt it, but cell phones would work out there.

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Holy Crap.

That is so freaking cool!

Ok - I know you were complaining about it not working in the rain and all - but I'm looking at it and thinking, damn - we don't even HAVE public transportation. You've got public transportation that ostensibly lets you know when it's going to be there! Day-um.

I think you posted this just to brag about your system. :-D

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Check out state


It is only online, we dont have signs at all, but its still cool.

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"

From Congressman Price's staff:

I ran across an entry by Robert P. on your blog today regarding Chapel Hill’s passenger information network, and I wanted to bring to your attention that there was factually incorrect information presented about Congressman Price in the entry.

In the entry, the writer expresses a complaint that Congressman Price passed legislation that limited the town to selecting a particular company for the passenger information contract. That is incorrect. In 2002, Price included the Chapel Hill project in a transportation appropriations bill, but there were no specifications or limitations as to how the Town of Chapel Hill was to spend the money for this purpose.

Here is the exact language from the bill (see pgs. 383-384):

Provided further, That within the $232,000,000 obligation limitation on Intelligent Transportation Systems, the following sums shall be made available for Intelligent Transportation System projects that are designed to achieve the goals and purposes set forth in section 5203 of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Act of 1998 (subtitle C of title V of Public Law 105-178; 112 Stat. 453; 23 U.S.C. 502 note) in the following specified areas:

“Chapel Hill Transit, North Carolina, real time passenger information system and vehicle location system, $750,000”

[among many other projects throughout the country]

And it is our understanding that Chapel Hill issued a request for proposals for the project and considered a number of vendors. It was then the town’s decision to grant the contract to the vendor of its choosing.

I felt it was important to bring this information to your attention as the host of the BlueNC blog. I have also attached a letter to the editor in the Chapel Hill Herald (8/22/07) written by Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy in support of this project.

Thanks and enjoy your weekend!

Paul Cox

Paul, I appreciate that you're keeping up with BlueNC - and I wish I could take credit for being "host." In any case, thank you for sending this comment . . . I'm happy to get the straight story - and I'm happy to post it.

I changed the story to reflect this, however it is these

kinds of contributions that call into question the morality of our legislators. I'm sure there was no quid pro quo, but as I mentioned, in 2002 he gets a series of donations from Next Bus executives and lobbyists, then...

In 2003, Congressman David Price obtained for the Town an earmark grant for an Intelligent Transportation System deployment program. The funds were to be used for obtaining a Real Time Passenger Information System for Chapel Hill Transit.

Meaning, it could have easily been the other way. David Price became interested in the technology so companies that sold it began giving him donations. Were they hoping to influence him? Of course. Did it, who knows. That is the problem.

If we found the same thing happening to Robin Hayes we would be crying foul, but because it is someone we know and like we ignore it. Sure, in the case of Robin Hayes it is easy to believe he did something wrong, while it is hard to believe in the case of David Price, but THAT is the problem. Appearance.

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.


Robert P also said that "David Price got big fat contributions from the NextBus parent company. " Is there any evidence for or against this?


Besta é tu se você não viver nesse mundo

Besta é tu se você não viver nesse mundo