Mobile BusFinder (Community Transit photo)
Mobile BusFinder (Community Transit photo)

Community Transit is working on an online tool called BusFinder that will bring predicted bus arrival times and real-time service alerts to its riders. BusFinder is part of CT’s transit technology project that has installed GPS tracking onboard its buses and upgraded its radio system, enabling user-friendly features such as automatic stop announcements and real-time arrival signs at Swift stations and transit centers.

No launch date has been given for BusFinder as CT wants to be confident that the tool works accurately and reliably. When it does launch it will be available over the phone and on desktops and mobile devices. The service will provide information for Community Transit buses and Sound Transit buses operated by CT.

One feature of BusFinder that I am excited about is showing service alerts relevant to your stop. This is especially important when you’re on the move and in a hurry. OneBusAway has supported service alerts for years but operators like Metro have not implemented them.

What about OneBusAway? BusFinder won’t work with OneBusAway, yet, at least not at launch. Community Transit is aware of the need for integrating its real-time information with OneBusAway and providing a data feed to developers. Community Transit spokesman Martin Munguia explains:

A couple years ago, when we started working with our technology vendor, INIT, on a real-time bus information tool, OneBusAway was in a state of flux. It was a graduate student project at UW with an uncertain future. So we moved in the direction of developing our own tool through the vendor.

We are glad that Sound Transit has taken over control of OneBusAway to keep the project alive for Puget Sound transit users. We look forward to continue our relationship with OBA, but at this time we will have to defer the question of real-time integration for some months after we have launched BusFinder so we can focus on making sure this is a quality product for those who ride Community Transit buses and the Sound Transit buses we operate.

The same is true of providing real-time data for developers. That requires a robust streaming process that we have not had time to focus on while still developing BusFinder. After this project is out the door and working well, we will definitely turn our attention to the integration and data stream questions.

23 Replies to “Community Transit BusFinder in the Works”

  1. Let’s hope CT is serious about getting OBA compatibility once their app is working properly so we don’t have all sorts of transit apps for the same thing.

    1. I can understand why they want to finish this off and make sure it works before opening up the information. Generally speaking, unless they did something really weird, it should be fairly simple and easy to expose the information so that it will work with third party applications. Once they expose the information, then it really doesn’t matter what standard the information is in. It is fairly easy to translate the information from one standard to another, so that this could work with any application (such as OBA).

      Unless, of course, OBA (or a different application) requires information that they simply don’t use. I doubt this is the case, but I don’t know enough about each application to speculate.

  2. I really wish they’d just focus on working with OBA. This just means one more app I have to download,but at least they’re doing something.

    1. I don’t think you would have to download any app. From the look of the pic of BusFinder, it look almost similar to the CT mobile site, in which you can just save/bookmark to your homepage on the phone and make that the app.. Thats what I do for the CT anyways.

    2. In order to get it to work with OBA you generally have to have a method for releasing that information in a way that OBA can use it. Metro for instance has to route it through their systems and then onto OBA.

  3. I have been very frustrated with CT about this. This project is very behind schedule, which was due to be completed last July. The fact that they chose a separate product to launch with as opposed to an integrated service with other Puget Sound operators is a completely inept decision. Maybe it’s pride for them. When BusFinder launches, most riders will ask CT why it even bothered in light of a better app product like OBA or The Transit App. After one year of repeatedly asking about the project status, I got largely the same answers as Oran last week and I’m deeply dismayed.

    While Oran has a very nice and in depth piece here, he is being way too nice CT and I’m at my wit’s end with them.

    That said, the real-time arrival signs at CT’s transit centres appear to be fully operational and working well. So that’s nice anyway.

    1. I agree. It’s a big waste of money and resources for CT to make their own app instead of simply providing the real-time data to developers. There are dozens of apps already out there that look and perform better than anything CT could contract out.

    2. Well, I hope they can do something. I ride the 120 from canyon park to 204th st in Lynnwood for work and last night the bus driver for the 744pm run decided not to show up so we waited outside for an hour and 15 minutes. It already is an hour spacing between buses most of the day, so one missed run is a huge deal. You’d think they would put up an alert on their website…Nope…no alert on the website, or anything. What would have happened had this been the last run of the night? Just say ‘Oh, well’ and leave us stranded. The 65 yo lady we picked up on 4th Ave W was standing in the solid dark for an hour and a half. I know that alerts may not have helped that lady, but ANYTHING Community Transit can do would be appreciated.

      1. Do you think the bus driver just decided not to show up? Maybe he went for coffee instead? Most likely the bus broke down, don’t blame the drivers for things they can’t control. Now dispatch should have had a supervisor run the route in their 12 passenger vans they cruise around in, usually not a big crowd on that route. The people that update the website don’t work late.

      2. Here is the email I received. I apologize for leaving it out. This is why I was mad.

        Good Afternoon Chris:
        No, you did not miss the bus. This particular 120 did not run due to lack of manpower. We apologize for the inconvenience.


        Customer Information Services
        Community Transit
        7100 Hardeson RD
        Everett WA 98203
        (425) 348-7100

      3. Yes, that is a ct management problem, they don’t schedule enough report drivers to cover for when drivers get sick or hurt. They have about 250 drivers at that base and many would love to come in for a few hours of overtime if they were asked, but the 120 is very low on their priority list due to the low volume of passengers.

  4. Many of the comments related to OBA in the last year have been negative. Now you’re angry CT didn’t partner with them?

  5. I’ve been really impressed with the Transit App lately. Not only is great to use the same app in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Paris, wherever, they’ve been more proactive than OBA in keeping information current, even hardcoding RapidRideE immediately after the service change, while OBA was stuck with “Route 675” for several days. The Transit App is also the only one that shows you where your bus is on a map alongside real-time info (like Bus Drone meets OBA). Once they make two expected upgrades, stop-level views and (hopefully) early/late info instead of just arrival time, it’ll be the only app I use.

    1. Yeah, I really like the Transit App, but I do have a problem with its RT information. If a bus is approaching, it will often just drop off the countdown and go to the next bus. While I understand the intent there, what if I’m running to the stop? I still want to know the bus is imminent even if it’s 30 seconds to 1 minute away. The RT information isn’t perfect and OBA’s clunkiness has some usefulness to it in that it displays “arrived” trips for a few minutes.

      1. OBA’s clunkiness has some usefulness to it in that it displays “arrived” trips for a few minutes

        +1. Just last week, one of those “arrived” buses actually hadn’t arrived yet but came right after I got to the stop. A number of other times, I’ve wanted to see which bus it was that I’d just barely missed.

      2. While I agree that having arrived trips still show is useful, it does clutter up the Real Time Screens at the Rapid Ride Pylons downtown. Because of the way that page displays, frequently all that shows at the top are trips that are long gone (-5 minutes). The page then scrolls down to the trips that are due to arrive but it seems like it sits on the top trips too long to be useful.

        Especially downtown, it’s rare that a trip that shows more than -2 minutes hasn’t come yet.

      3. Mark, I can see what you mean. On a regular display, that’s a problem. I think for an app, it’s fine or maybe there’s a better way to achieve the same result. I would agree that the Downtown RT signs should not display buses that just departed. Or if it does, not more than one minute ago. I imagine a bit of programming could fix that.

  6. That looks like jQuery Mobile so it’s possible they’re using PhoneGap; basically an iframe app for webpages.

    1. Yes that’s jQM alright. Kind of surprised it’s being released as an app (or is there something they would need PhoneGap for, other than an app icon?)

      Here in Norfolk, VA, we have our own Bus Finder – – and works just fine without needing PhoneGap

  7. The Swift bus arrival signs are not in sync with the departure/arrival signs at the stations, I have been on buses that got to stations when the sign says next bus 3 mins, and see the buses leave Aurora many minutes before or after the sign says. Drivers tell me they depart by their display in the bus, which they say is not the same as the station signs, which go by a fixed internal schedule.

  8. Does this include Sound Transit routes operated by community transit, or routes directly branded as Community Transit? It would be very nice to have some form of real-time arrival info on the 512.

    1. From the post:

      “The service will provide information for Community Transit buses and Sound Transit buses operated by CT.”

  9. It makes no sense to re-invent the wheel when “the wheel” has already been invented!

    I’m only familiar with “One Bus Away,” and while it’s clunky, it’s functional. All/most of us know that it has community’s “scheduled” arrival times, which is great for when a bus is on schedule…and when it’s running (the trip hasn’t been canceled), but that’s about all. Only the savvy riders, such as those commenting here, are going to realize the difference – and the fact that they’re going to have to switch from one application to another when they’re going from one service to another or when they’re at a location that’s served by multiple transit agencies. This is inconvenient for the savvy and will continue to be annoying for the non-savvy, who either won’t know that they need to switch back and forth or will use OBA as they might presently.

    Metro has done a better job with their on-board announcements, which are clear and at an even volume. Their “next bus” signage is also more accurate, as when the bus is at the stop, it doesn’t say that the next bus is arriving in 1 minute! And, Metro got started later.

    It seems that some coordination amongst the agencies could have avoided the unnecessary “differential” that we see today.

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