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Anecdotally, I’ve been having a lot more success with OneBusAway the last few weeks. I asked OBA point man S. Morris Rose if it has been restored to the accuracy level of, say, a year ago:

At some level, OBA per se hasn’t changed at all, but there have been fixes inside the KCM network that have fixed a lot of the problems. In one instance, there were problems with the integration of the new and old types of AVL data. In another, there were problems with buffering of GTFS-based real-time data. Brian Ferris- yes, he yet walks this earth- fixed both of those particular problems, and I would agree that things are much better now than they were before.

Have we returned to the Golden Age of OBA for KCM users? I think that’s overstating recent advances. (Bear in mind that OBA serves Pierce, Community Transit, and Intercity users. None of this applies to any of them- their level of service has been solid.) Things are better than they were, but not as good as they were before that.

Mr. Rose believes it is “likely” that by the end of the year OBA will reach new highs for data quality, as GPS rolls out and the raw schedule data better reflects holiday (and UW off-day) reduced service levels.

30 Replies to “Is OneBusAway Fixed?”

  1. OneBusAway also serves Intercity Transit in Olympia. (They have also posted each stop’s number on the signs at the stops, which is a big help in using it.)

      1. Well, technically all stop numbers are posted at least on any stop that has a schedule card. If you look at the top of the schedule there’s a big long number separated by dashes. The number you’re looking for is the middle number. Also, newer stops have the 3, 4 or 5 digit stop number on the bus route standard.

  2. In my experience OBA info has gone from junk to pretty reliable over the last two weeks or so (Yahoo!), which is really helpful for my evening commute. Outbound the info was fairly good, but inbound buses were typically 30 minute late or early when in actually they were on time.

    I love it when I’m at S Kirkland and I look at my phone and it says “Now” and I can just start to hear the electric motor sound of the bus slowing as it turns into S Kirkland. Before with the Bredas you didn’t need OBA because you could hear the buses at 3 or so block away.

  3. Last night at Denny and Stewart, OBA told me the eastbound 8 had come and gone a good 2-3 minutes before it actually arrived.

    1. That’s typical. Not a rare occurence for the Late 8. Frankly, OBA usually gives up and the 8 goes ghost simply because the bus is often late in excess of 15 minutes. With that stop, you just have to guess that the bus is going to be there immediately or within 15 minutes (unless something catastrophic has happened). No amount of GPS or schedule padding can save that disaster of a route. It’s dead to OBA.

      1. Hmm…maybe I’m on to something. If OBA thinks a route isn’t worth providing accurate data that matches reality, maybe that’s indicative of neccessary service changes to that route…BREAK THE 8!!!

    2. The underlying tracking system uses historical data to predict the speed at which the bus will travel along a segment of roadway. Thus if a bus has very unpredictable travel times along a road segment, say Denny Way, the predicted travel time will also be unpredictable. If the bus is faster than average, you’ll have a bus pass you by before OBA says it should, if its slower than average you’ll have it the count down slower than actual time, ie it could be stuck on 2 minutes for 5 minutes.

  4. OBA is showing duplicate schedule entries in SnoCo with strange differences in the destination heading. For instance, look at scheduled arrivals at Mountlake Terrace flyer stop Bay 7 (NB) it shows 2 separate entries for each trip of the ST 511. One says it’s to Ash Way Park and Ride, while the other just says Ash Way. I just reported this to them. Hopefully it’s a simple fix.

    1. I have noticed a definite uptick in reliability, but this is definitely curious. Lets hope it was a learning experience.

  5. I’ve had a lot more problems with PT on OBA than KCM (PT-oparated ST Express excluded). I would not call them solid at all. But, KCM has improved massively in the past two weeks for me. And thank heavens for that.

  6. This may be off topic since it’s not OBA but it does speak to KC Metro’s real time data. Last night around 7PM we passed the RR stop on 148th Ave NE just south of Old Redmond Rd. I’m betting this is the start of the No Ride Zone since it’s surrounded by upscale single family housing. Anyway, it has a “working” electronic arrival time sign. It said 5 minutes. Thing is there was a RR coach just up ahead of us which we passed an NE51st. That stop gets lots of use as it has apartments to the west and Microsoft and Nintendo to the east. It’s real time arrival sign is still blank. It’s been like this for weeks, maybe months now. None of the rest of the well used stops on 148th even have a real time arrival sign.

    1. I’ve seen real-time signs at Bellevue TC, on NE 8th, at SeaTac, and at KDM Road give widely inaccurate results. Sometimes it says “35 minutes”, which is not plausable given RapidRide’s frequency, and the bus comes on time in 7 minutes. Also, I can’t figure out why it shows some non-RapidRide routes on Pac Hwy but not others. Is it missing some runs? Or is it only showing certain routes, or only showing Metro routes and not ST Express routes?

  7. Question: When I use my ORCA card on a bus, I presume there is a real time channel opened up with the back end servers to validate it and do the money transaction.

    If so, that means that every bus already has a constant real time network connection, right. So what is the problem with sending live data through that same connection?

    (Also…I would love to know more about what type of wireless network ORCA is using.)

    1. The Orca readers keeps a cache of all transactions done throughout the day and downloads the usage wireless at base at the end of the bus’ run. Transfers are handled by the Orca reader writing the time of the first transfer directly on the card itself. If a subsequent Orca reader finds that the current time is before the transfer expired time, it doesn’t charge the user.

      The value of the Orca card is also directly stored on the card. When you add value, the card is updated the next time you use it — meaning every Orca reader has information about every fund-updated Orca card.

      I think that’s right :)

      1. This is why they say there may be a lag of several days between refilling your ORCA card online versus when you can use it in the system. My trick for avoiding that is to add value at a TVM. Value is available immediately when you use TVM.

      2. This is also why it usually takes 2 hours for the rides to post to the account.

        I do the same thing Charles. I prefer it to online. I’ve known people to be double charged by accidentally refreshing.

      3. Here’s another thought.

        In some sense OBA should be more of a “social network”.

        What do I mean by that?

        Well right now, it’s top down. I get information from the “mainframe”.

        However this wastes the best part of a smartphone.

        Every smart phone is a GPS. Every smart phone is a feedback mechanism. Every rider is an input device.

        For example, if a bus doesn’t show up, I should be able to press a button and report that back to OBA, OBA users and Metro.

        Also, if I’m riding on a bus, and my GPS is on, I am a GPS! I could be feeding back data into the system.

        I could be live chatting with people further up the route…”hey, did you see the 168? Did it leave from Timberlake yet??” “Just left!”

        And so on…

  8. The past two weeks all I get is an “Error Connecting” on my iPhone, regardless of whether I’m connected on WiFi or or cell connection. Very frustrating.

    1. I get that error when trying to access the bus-level data for a bus that is only showing as a scheduled departure, but otherwise I haven’t experienced that error.

  9. My dream is for OneBusAway to be precise enough to allow one who is one a bus to confidently determine whether another bus is just ahead of or just behind the bus you’re on. This can be a huge timer-saver for certain connections. For example, if you’re going from Kirkland to Green Lake, this is how you figure out whether to switch to the 542 at Evergreen Point or the 48 at Montlake.

    Similarly, when making a connection downtown, if your connecting bus is right behind you, you want to get off right away, lest a wheelchair getting on your bus cause the other bus to pass you later. Or, if you connecting bus is just ahead of you, you want to wait, in hopes a wheelchair on the connecting bus will delay it just long enough to allow your current bus to catch up to it.

  10. I’ve had mixed results over the last week or so with OBA telling me that a bus will arrive in two minutes or so and then checking it again and it tells me that the bus departed four minutes ago. I’m not always sure what this means. The last time it happened to me when it said the bus had left it arrived five minutes later. If I can’t get some sort of accurate prediction of arrival the service is worthless to me.

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