Computer Error Disables FareboxesBe dubious if someone tells you some new gizmo is going to save you money. I'm a firm believer in the KISS principle...
$200,000 Lost Because Many Passengers Got Free Rides
By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
A computer glitch knocked out Metrobus's system for collecting fares yesterday, resulting in a loss of about $200,000 as many passengers rode for free during the first half of the day, officials said.
By afternoon, engineers had made a temporary repair that allowed fareboxes to work, Metrobus operations chief Milo Victoria said.
Victoria said the problem was caused when two internal computer systems failed to communicate properly. "We're still trying to figure out why it went down, but we think part of the hard drive got corrupted," he said.
Metrobuses are equipped with a system that automatically tracks their location. That system is connected to a farebox system, which works only when a bus driver is logged on.
But about 3:45 a.m. yesterday, the computer system for the fareboxes crashed because of an outage in the locator server. The crash automatically triggered electronic messages logging drivers off the system and taking the fareboxes out of service, Victoria said.
About two-thirds of the 1,200 buses on the road during the first part of the day were affected, he said.
By early afternoon, engineers and computer technicians were able to electronically disconnect the two systems at all but one of the 10 bus divisions "so they don't talk to each other and so bus operators can log on," Victoria said.
Additional supervisors were dispatched to the streets to monitor buses. The bus operations control center now must rely on radio communication with drivers to track their location.
This is the second time in several months that Metrobus fareboxes have not functioned properly. In the spring, a different type of problem prevented drivers from logging on, officials said.