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When we first told folks about Muni’s proposal to have riders to use 511, not (the pricey) 311, to find out when the next bus would arrive, people started talking about how bad 511 sucks.

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And, yeah, we hear you — the website is rough, and, please, do not get us started on the trip planner. But, after our douchery mockery yesterday, we’re impressed to see Muni already making some changes to how they get their users arrival information.

First, on their web site (see above), NextBus is now telling you to use 511 for next bus information, with the additional bonus of a picture of the cell phone we had in 1997.

Next, here’s the mobile app for NextBus yesterday, and, at left, you can see how it looks today. See that “(#16104)” beneath the stop street names, or the “15197” under the red phone on their site? That’s new, as of late last night.

And that’s your stop ID number. This is great to have, because this makes it even easier to get predictions from 511. As Judson (somewhat accusingly) said to us yesterday, “not everyone has an iPhone, but most people have cell phones, and they need to be able to call to find out when the bus is coming.” So now, handheld free folks can call 511 and just enter the stop ID number instead of navigating through a tree of options to quickly and easily get info on when the next bus will arrive at their stop.

Of course, neither Muni nor NextMuni is explaining this stop number thing just yet, but that’s what we’re here for. Here’s what we think you should do: keep track of your most used stop numbers, make a note in your cell phone or write it down and put it in your wallet or whatever. You can figure it out. Then, when you need to know when the bus is coming, call 511, enter your stop number, and there you go. Muni saves some money, you know when your bus is coming with the minimum of 511-phone-navigation muss, and we’re all just a tiny bit happier.

Additional reporting: Matt Baume

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Akit

    I just tried it, and it works!

    It’s nice that it is not that synthesized voice like we hear on BART everyday.

  • Akit

    I just tried it, and it works!

    It’s nice that it is not that synthesized voice like we hear on BART everyday.

  • Greg Dewar

    Dont forget all the banners on Irving St. advertising 511…

  • Greg Dewar

    Dont forget all the banners on Irving St. advertising 511…

  • Jamison Wieser

    Whether there are a little or a lot of iPhone users, we are still being directed to call 311 at $1.96 a call, and not 511.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Whether there are a little or a lot of iPhone users, we are still being directed to call 311 at $1.96 a call, and not 511.

  • Karl

    This is totally cumbersome. Just downloaded a new app on my G1 last night called TransiCast. They say all they need is for an agency to set up a server like TriMet has and we can kiss this nonsense goodbye.

  • Karl

    This is totally cumbersome. Just downloaded a new app on my G1 last night called TransiCast. They say all they need is for an agency to set up a server like TriMet has and we can kiss this nonsense goodbye.

  • Eve Batey

    Well, I guess what they’re saying is that they still want you to use 311 to call for any reason other than for finding out when the next bus is coming, and they they’re directing folks to use 511 for that purpose. If you have an iPhone, you don’t need to make a call, you can look at NextBus — but for folks without a smartphone, making a call is the only way they can find out how long they’ll have to wait. What do you think of that strategy?

  • Eve Batey

    Well, I guess what they’re saying is that they still want you to use 311 to call for any reason other than for finding out when the next bus is coming, and they they’re directing folks to use 511 for that purpose. If you have an iPhone, you don’t need to make a call, you can look at NextBus — but for folks without a smartphone, making a call is the only way they can find out how long they’ll have to wait. What do you think of that strategy?