Today the Times featured a front page, above the fold story about OneBusAway. Most of the story is essentially about how awesome it is, which most OBA users already know, but at the end of the story is some new and uncertain news.

The timing couldn’t be worse, but now the future of OneBusAway is in limbo.

Ferris will finish his Ph.D. next month then work for Google at its Zurich, Switzerland, office, with a team that works on transit and direction services.

Local supporters are looking for ways to keep the project going. King County is talking to companies about contracts to support and extend the project.

At the UW, Dorning hopes to raise enough money from transit agencies and others to hire a part-time developer to maintain the system.

“An extremely high priority is to make sure it keeps running — we need to figure it out,” Dorning said.

In a way, the project will continue in Zurich, where Ferris hopes to keep working on it while building more tools to help people find and use all kinds of transportation.

“My goal,” he said, “is to go to Google and do this worldwide.”

34 Replies to “OneBusAway on Front Page of Times”

  1. Before everyone freaks out, know that nobody is going to pull the plug when I graduate this summer. I’ve done a lot of work over the last year to make sure there are a number of options on the table for keeping OneBusAway going even as I move on to other things. I don’t want this to be a BusMonster repeat any more than you guys do.

    That said, I made the choice to go to Google because ultimately I felt it was the best place to take my work to the next level and have an impact on a global scale. In the future, I believe riders will rely less and less on agency supported tools and more and more on tools from app developers and the big boys like Google and Microsoft. I want to be part of that work.

    1. Brian,
      It would be awesome if Google lets you make their transit tools as useful as OneBusAway.

    2. There are also plenty of software engineers who use OBA and would volunteer their time to fix bugs and do testing, if they were asked. I suspect they’ve never thought to offer in the past as OBA is maintained so well and most of the problems using it are actually Metro’s problems.

      Great job, and enjoy the clean, frequent, well-funded transit that I assume Zurich will have.

    3. Brian, I just wanted to say thank you for such a awesome app. I commute to the east side and use OBA every single day. It has become an invaluable tool for me, and I don’t think I can thank you enough for how awesome a contribution to Seattle transit it has been. You sir, are a mensch.

    4. Ya know, they make pretty good Chocolate in Fremont and I think they have pretty good fondue at a couple of places in Seattle. You didn’t have to accept a job all the way in Switzerland. :)

      Congrats – Hopefully you’ll be able dramatically improve Google’s transit interface.

    5. I agree with this. More and more transit agencies are going with Google or some other provider…was recently in Kansas City, transferring from Amtrak, and their website said they are abandoning their in-house trip planner in favor of Google.

      Didn’t surprise me in the least.

      1. Google Transit has been very useful for me! I recently moved from near Everett to Salt Lake City. Utah Transit Authority has their info on GT. I access it either on my HTC EVO or on my Blackberry Style. I love it! I completely understand why Brian wants to work for Google. Good luck!

        Why is the job in Zurich?!?

    6. I used OBA to get from my South Seattle to a Mariner’s game and it worked perfectly…it even had the bus that I missed…which I saw leaving…clocked right on time!

      The layout, unlike many “Apps” fits the medium perfectly.

  2. Seattle’s loss, but Google and the world’s gain. Congratulations to Brian – he will no doubt be successful in his endeavors. He is a great guy and a smart, sharp developer. I’m lucky I had the opportunity to work with him and chip in a little help for OBA as part of my studies. I think this would be a great project for UW to sustain, perhaps with some support from local transit agencies.

  3. I can’t help but think this is bad news for those of us who prefer native apps.

    1. I don’t think native apps are going away any time soon. But I will add that trying to support iPhone, Android, WP7, BlackBerry and all the rest is intractable for a single developer. I look forward to the day when write-once, run-anywhere mobile web apps can compete with native apps in terms of user experience. We clearly have a long way to go, but I think it will happen.

      1. I’m sorry, but I do not think web “apps” can ever offer the flexibility or power available to native apps. I am slightly biased in this matter, but it’s pretty clear that the market has spoken: people want native apps to access their online services.

      2. One gripe I had about my iPad is that Google Transit doesn’t work on iOS. Google just updated the mobile version of GM so I can now access GT and all my saved maps in Safari. It is slower than a native app but it still works well. It is easier for Google to update a browswer version rather than code for so many differetn OSes. It is, as always, a work in progress.

  4. Ferris has tried to persuade King County to change the way the number is displayed. He rode his bike to 800 stops in the south end of Seattle last summer, discreetly applying vinyl stickers displaying each stop number.

    Ah-ha! so you’re the one responsible for those neat little stop # thingys. Super cool. But as I discovered, things can get out of whack when Metro moves the pole to another location as happened to my stop recently.

      1. …. that is too awesome, you’ll get some coffee and chocolates in return!

  5. So, if you’re too dumb (and cheap ;-) to have a smart phone, is there a number you can “dial” and using Simple Simon keypad entry (aka phone tree from hell) or voice interpretation get similar information?

  6. Only about 2,000 weekly visits come from the dial-in service, which is surprising since most people don’t own a smartphone.

    Why is that surprising? Most idiots like me with dumb phones don’t even know we can do such a thing. Maybe it’s a different pot of money but perhaps ST could put some of it’s millions in ridership research toward educating us dumb phone (or perhaps just plain dumb) users on how to utilize what we already have.

    1. Are those 2,000 total weekly dial-ins? Or dial-ins from 2,000 unique phones?

      Because before I had a smartphone, I must have called OneBusAway about 20 times a day. When I checked my itemized final Sprint bill, there were hundreds of “206-456-0609″s.

      I downloaded the OneBusAway app within the first 10 minutes of owning an iPhone.

      You’re work is life-changing, Brian!

      1. That’s 2000 unique users per week. Still pretty low.

        Since we don’t really have a marketing budget or anything fancy, most people find out about OneBusAway through word of mouth, seeing someone use it on their iPhone, tweets, etc. I think the kind of riders who would be using the phone number miss out on that.

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