WMATA recently released an RFP (FQ11204/KAM) for new onboard electronics for buses and backend systems. These backend systems will be required to use MetroNet, WMATA’s internal network, to communicate with buses via Wi-Fi connections in bus garages, as well as to communicate with dispatch consoles at WMATA locations. Of the requests for clarification received by WMATA from potential proposers, two questions and their answers are notable:
The questions aren’t entirely unreasonable; one of the requirements for the system involves real-time tracking of buses. It’s entirely conceivable that a heavily-loaded, low-bandwidth network could be swamped by adding a substantial amount of new traffic requiring low-latency transport. A system which is able to deliver position updates for two thousand buses every few seconds over a lightly-loaded network in a lab might lag substantially behind real-time on a heavily-loaded production network, and that’s the sort of thing a potential proposer might want to be able to anticipate.
But it turns out that the details of MetroNet aren’t really proprietary anyway, given that WMATA released the following diagram in the presentation made at the pre-proposal conference for the New Electronic Payments Program (another project which will require that vendors make use of MetroNet):
The diagram clearly shows 10 Gbps links between JGB and the CTF, although connectivity to the bus garages (where buses will download updates and upload information via Wi-Fi) is considerably poorer. Now, I don’t expect that any proposer would substantially change their proposal based on this information, but I consider it peculiar that information that WMATA deems proprietary in the context of one RFP is readily handed out to potential proposers for another RFP. WMATA does not have the best track record on transparency, and clear, open communications with vendors and would-be vendors would likely produce a better outcome for everyone—including the riding public.