Here’s to agency cooperation:

Puget Sound area transit agencies have reached an agreement with the University of Washington to keep the popular transit scheduling software application One Bus Away up and running now that the original developer – a UW graduate student – has moved on to the private sector.

Sound Transit, King County Metro, Pierce Transit and the UW through its Washington State Transportation Center and Department of Computer Science and Engineering will fund up to $150,000 to further develop and maintain the application for 13 months.

One of the tasks in this contract will be to improve interfaces and documentation to expand the practical range of agency options next year.

It’s always nice when overlapping agencies seize responsibility, especially in a time of austerity. This is a very small expense for a very large service quality improvement.

33 Replies to “Agencies Buy One More Year of OneBusAway”

  1. The sign at 3rd and Pine is wonderful. I would especially like to see it in the tunnel stations where a lack of cellphone reception blocks accessing of OneBusAway the conventional way through a mobile phone.

    1. While displays would be great what I really would like to see is the DSTT get cell coverage from all major carriers AND the city’s muni-WIFI installed.

      1. The city ditched the muni-wifi plan years ago after determining that citizens and businesses were blanketing the area on their own. The plan was going to be replaced with a citywide fiber network, instead, but there hasn’t been any new news on that in a long time. I suspect the budget for it dried up. A shame.

        My cell works in the tunnel stations, although the signal is weak.

    2. This would be a much better use of those fancy variable message signs than telling me I need to hold a handrail on the bus to keep from falling over.

      1. Which begs the question, why doesn’t the automated announcement system on Link repeat over and over, “Mind the Gap”?

      2. They say Mind the Gap even when there’s no gap. It took me a while to figure out what they were talking about then one stop had a 2 inch step from the train to the platform AND a gap and I knew.

      3. I like the message at Westlake that says to stand clear of the train doors before boarding to allow passengers to disembark. Especially since for the next few years, there won’t be any trains NB with people boarding, or SB with people disembarking.

      4. Perhaps because “Mind the gap” is meaningless in American English. It took me a while to figure out what it meant in England. I understood “mind” in the sense of “watch out for” but it sounded archaic. But what was the gap? I only understood that when a longer announcement said, “Mind the gap between the train and the platform.” Still, I wouldn’t call that a gap. If I had to call it anything I’d probably call it a space.

  2. I hope now that they’re paying for it, this means there will be more direct cooperation between King County Metro and OneBusAway.

    1. RapidRide too. As of last week, OneBusAway didn’t show any information for the B-line beyond that it runs every 15 minutes. The electronic signs at stations attempted to display real-time arrival info, but it wasn’t accurate – the bus I was waiting for arrived 5 minutes before the sign said it was going to arrive.

  3. I’d rather see that money spent on improving the data that comes out of Metro and leave development of the apps up to Bing, Google, and other providers. Bing’s app works fine – if only the data it was receiving was accurate.

    1. That’s a good thought. It would be good to know how the money is being spent. Some of it may be going to exactly this. At least it’s going to the UW and not some outfit in Texas that only has a proven record of failure.

  4. Long term, I think it’s a matter of time before OneBusAway becomes simply a feature of Google Maps, rather than a separate standalone app. Once that happens, Metro won’t need to have any involvement whatsoever, except for ensuring an accurate data feed going into it.

    1. Brian Ferris said as much on the OneBusAway blog. I think that part of the work Brian was doing at Metro last summer was enabling them to provide a GTFS-realtime feed instead of the SDD format that was developed by ITS and isn’t used by any other agency that I know of.

  5. I think all major transit centers should have Ruggedized LCD displays showing real time arrival information like portland and the “prototype” panel in downtown seattle. I also did see a neat thing in LA, the bus stop pole has a small sign on it showing stop number, telephone, website information, plus it had a QR code printed on it linking you to LA Metro’s prototype Nextbus stop display. that would be an easy thing to install on our stops with schedule information. point the qr code to the mobile version of OBA for the stop, and place it on the schedule thats posted at the stop for the stops that have schedules. either that or do what LA does and make a small sign for it and place it directly on the pole.

  6. MBTA just won an innovation award by fully opening its source code to “app” writers. I realize that one bus away sort of started this way, but let’s face it – doif we reallyactually need tomore pay for this? boston is getting multiple tools for free.

    The long term trend for real time info is clear imo, its not static display at a transit center or bus stop. Its a smart phone or tablet.

  7. It would be nice if they could integrate OneBusAway with the metro trip planner. Currently the telephone interface for tripplanner is years out of date and incompatible with OneBusAway since they use different stop numbers among other things.

    1. Thanks to Google maps, I’m not sure why we even need a trip planner anymore. Lots of small agencies, for example, Island Transit simply provide Google with the raw data and let them write the trip planning tools.

      1. I agree with this. King County Metro should work with Microsoft and Google to make their trip planners more accurate instead of having its own.

      2. I think there needs to be a planner of last resort and the Metro/ST/other agencies sorta serve that function. I get the majority of my trip planning info from Google but they sometimes don’t deliver the results I’m looking for. So, in addition to encouraging robust commercial or open source solutions, it is always good that the agencies have tools available even if they are rudimentary.

  8. Some function that I’d like to see built into all trip planners is the ability to crowd source suggested routes and/or stops. This would be particularly useful for visitors. For example, if a visitor is in at Pier 70 and wants to get to Capitol Hill, the route planners are likely to tell him/her to wait for a bus that may come only twice an hour and likely delayed by train and auto traffic. Then transfer twice. A crowd sourced suggestion might be to encourage them to take the hill climbs or elevators to streets with more frequent options.

    Or If one wanted to get from Westlake Center to the Pioneer Square, the planners would give you a specified route instead of take any bus/train in the DSTT or a host of buses on 5th or 3rd Ave.

    Crowd sourcing could also be used to review the relative safety of certain stops. For example, the stop at McClellan and Rainier I would consider unsafe after dark. And the recent murders there should be noted. BTW, I’ve written Metro to urge them to move the stop to in front of the MT Baker station entrance where it is well lit and presumably under video surveillance.

    1. I’m not sure you need crowdsourcing there. What would really be helpful is for the route planner to understand the notion of frequent, as opposed to scheduled, service, and also to understand the notion of corridors.

      That way, if you were trying to get from (say) Trader Joe’s in Capitol Hill to TJ’s in Queen Anne, it would tell you something like:

      – Choice 1: 12 to downtown, then transfer to the 2/13
      – Choice 2: Walk to the 2, then take it all the way

      Or if you were going from the ID to 1st and Cedar:

      – Get in the tunnel, take the first bus you see to Westlake
      – Take the first 1/2/3/4/13/15/18 to 3rd and Cedar

      That has nothing to do with crowdsourcing, and everything to do with enhancing their algorithm so that it doesn’t try to coordinate between particular scheduled trips on frequent services.

  9. Count my vote for fixing the data feed and scheduling. Data for the 106 has been missing or widely inaccurate since the new coaches came online. Most of the time One Bus Away only shows a ‘scheduled arrival’ which doesn’t match the posted schedule; sometimes it indicates that the bus is 5 minutes early when it’s actually 10 minutes late; sometimes it tells me the bus is an hour away and will arrive later than the bus behind it!

  10. I won’t use OBA any more until the data is guaranteed real time.

    I have twice been left stranded at a bus stop for over an hour because of inaccurate OBA information.

    They need to make it clear with a popup or other warning that the data is not real time or based on actual bus position.

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