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2010/11/17

Have Mercy! A RouteShout Signage Bug

I now live where the buses go, and I've been taking a bus to work for a little over a month. I can't say there haven't been problems, but I can and must admit that they've all been self-inflicted.

They have signs under all the bus stops saying "Text this code to 25252 and find out how long the wait is". I have tried it, and it fails.

Turns out, this is not an in-house thing, but a service provided through a company called RouteShout. There's more than just texting, though. There's an iPhone app, an Android app, a mobile site for those with older, less-smart phones and an API. That's the point where I said "cool" and dove in. And found the problem.

Say you have a bus stop. Say CityBus labelled it BUS666. Well, if you're gonna get on a bus someplace, you'll want to come back near there, too. So, we can think of BUS666 as where you get picked up and where you get let off. Except, sometimes the bus will go up and down the same road. For example, the bus I take from my apartment goes around a mall and comes back. So BUS666 is on both sides of the street. If I'm waiting on the north side of the street, I don't care about buses coming to the south side, except when they're coming around and back to the north side. So, we have BUS666N and BUS666S.

But the signs still say BUS666.

And if you text BUS666 to 25252, rather than BUS666N. Which makes the texting interface useless. And you have to get inside the API to figure out where the problem is.

(As it turns out, BUS666 is one stop, not two, and doesn't have this problem. It also is far away from anywhere I take the bus to, so using it as an example doesn't lead to people knowing where I live.)

Again, this is a signage bug. The RouteShout service works perfectly, as far as I've seen. I think I'll put together a Perl module from the API and put that on CPAN. Yay to them.