Earlier this year, my research team at the University of Washington launched StopInfo, a prototype system linked from the OneBusAway iOS application that provides detailed information about bus stops, primarily to help visually-impaired riders to locate them. This information comes from a combination of King County Metro’s internal information about bus stops and information entered directly from transit riders using the OneBusAway application, typically while waiting at the stop. At the outset of the project, we hoped that this community-entered information would supplement and verify what Metro had already provided us, so that we could include additional types of information such as how well-lit a stop is at night and the bus sign’s position relative to the curb, while making sure information is kept accurate and up-to-date.

Since initially launching StopInfo in late February, we have collected over 1,300 submissions for 845 unique stops in King County. We have also studied the use of the system with six visually-impaired transit riders over a five week period, and found that StopInfo is generally helpful for blind and low vision riders and can promote more spontaneous travel as well as trips to less familiar places. Additionally, all six of our participants said that they wanted to keep using the system even after the study ended. Full details on this study can be found in this paper, which will be published and presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing annual conference in October.

We are now in the midst of evaluating the system more fully, and are considering the underlying values associated with the use of the system for a full range of stakeholder groups, including transit officials at King County Metro, visually impaired transit riders, bus drivers, and transit riders who might potentially contribute information. So if you are a Metro driver, a person who is blind or low vision, or are interested in potentially contributing information or have contributed information before, please contact us at stopinfo@onebusaway.org if you would be willing to answer a few questions for our study. If you are a OneBusAway user interested in contributing, you can also take a quick online survey, which offers a chance at winning a $50 Amazon gift card in a drawing.

Screenshots of StopInfo in OneBusAway iOS. Left screenshot shows the stop details page with the info button to access StopInfo. Right screenshot shows the StopInfo page for the corresponding stop.

Image:  (left) Where to access StopInfo within the OneBusAway iOS Application. (right) StopInfo’s information screen.

We encourage transit riders in the King County area to submit information about bus stops as they wait for the bus by using the OneBusAway application to access StopInfo. We are currently working with Metro on ways to reward our top contributors to the application. Currently the system is available within the iOS version of OneBusAway as an info button next to the stop name (see above) and on the Web. However, we are working to incorporate it into other OneBusAway applications, and hope to provide this information via SMS as well. Stay tuned!

For more information, or if you have questions or comments, you can read this article on StopInfo, contact us at the e-mail address provided above, or reply to this post. Thank you!

14 Replies to “StopInfo for OneBusAway”

  1. Not to be a party poop, but it would be nice if the core functionality of OBA worked as advertised. OBA is fine for when you have a data connection and can use it with a smartphone or at home you can pull up the web page. The SMS interface could use some attention. As it is presently if you attempt to use OBA and your stop number is duplicated in another agency 1 of two things happens. For me when I attempt a stop number that’s duplicated the system gives me no choice and gives me the Community Transit stop in Pierce County which is not useable at all by me or what happens generally is you’ll be given a two choices one in KC Metro’s area and the other in (I assume) Pierce county. From the way it appears you’re supposed to choose one. When you do (choose one or the other) that command is not understood and basically you are unable to choose a stop if it is duplicated in another agency’s system. If you’re not supposed to choose 1 or 2 and enter it’s not evident what you *should* do.

    1. Hi Joseph,

      Thanks for the feedback! You’re right that the core functionality should be in working order if the app is to be used and trusted at all. I was unaware of some of the SMS issues you brought up here, but I do know that it is in need of some major improvements. Unfortunately, I am a student at UW who works on the iOS version of the application, and I am unsure if there is anyone who is currently working on the SMS version (it has since been acquired by SoundTransit, and my understanding is that they manage it there), but I can definitely pass your comments on to the appropriate people. If I had time or ability to work on it myself (or if we had the money to hire someone who could), that would be wonderful — but so it goes. We will definitely try and improve the SMS interface for OBA before inserting StopInfo!

      Thanks again,

  2. How easy is it to use an iOS device if you are visually impaired? I find it challenging sometimes to get the right option selected and about the only excuse I have is that I’m probably too old to be using such a device.

    Has anybody looked into making this stop information available on the Sendero Group’s BrailleNote and VoiceNote GPS wayfinding devices? I know I suggested this before but it seems like that would be really important since those are the devices that are truly designed for use by the visually impaired.

    I know that is the direction TriMet here in Portland has been going with their system. However, as I have no reason to have one of those devices I have no idea how well it works.

      1. Yes, Frank is right. We primarily chose to prototype StopInfo on iOS because it is probably the most accessible smartphone platform out there (of course it isn’t without its flaws, but it is generally better than the rest). Before launching, we went through the OneBusAway iOS app and made sure it was accessible via VoiceOver (Apple’s native screen reader), and also created a high contrast setting for low vision users who do not use VoiceOver. We’re continually working to improve it, but from our interviews with visually impaired users and our field deployment with six blind and low vision participants, we didn’t find any significant barriers to its use.

    1. Also, re: BrailleNote/VoiceNote — utilizing the information we’ve gained from StopInfo, we do hope to integrate it with wayfinding technologies such as the ones you mention, and perhaps BlindSquare on nonproprietary devices. We’re currently in the step of making sure the information is sound (and comprehensive enough) before we use it for wayfinding. This is definitely a great goal for the project, and is hopefully the direction we’ll be able to take it. Thanks again for the suggestions!

  3. I’ve had a fault issue with SMS as a complaint in with them since the end of May. Sound Transit does not even answer my questions any longer. The last time they did answer they said that they were referring my problem to their vendor. I have heard nothing at all from Sound Transit for over a month. They don’t seem to be interested in fixing the problem or my idea is that they do not know how to fix it and rather than keep me updated they’ve just chosen to ignore the problem. I’m not impressed with Sound Transit’s customer service skills.

    1. Try telling them that they are missing out on a revenue opportunity. That might get their attention. Try sending the text message 13236 to the number 272-99. This is gives arrival times for a TriMet stop in Southeast Portland, plus a short advertisement.

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