obaVarious anecdotes coming in this morning suggest that OneBusAway is finally fixed, after over a month without real-time data on many key routes. Furthermore, the software will accurately reflect holiday schedules in the future. Spokesman Bruce Gray explains:

We put a new build up at 7 a.m. that so far appears to fix the major issues we had been seeing. Turned out to be a compression problem on a couple files.

While there were many aggravating aspects of this rollout, not least the lack of information before I asked for it, the good news is that Sound Transit is executing a program of actually improving OneBusAway rather than letting it stagnate.

Meanwhile, King County announced a new region-wide trip planning app this morning. which will include real-time arrival data. We’ll have a review of it next week.

26 Replies to “OBA Apparently Fixed”

  1. I hate to be that guy, but why launch a separate app instead of integrating everything into one single unified app, under the existing and known OBA label? Rename it if you have to – other successful apps have done that in the past. One Trip Away?

    If you had one single app that did it all, it would be wonderful.

    1. I left off a question – is the new app part of an effort to take over the role that OBA filled?

    2. Why release an app at all? Don’t the third party apps like Transit App use the same data as OBA, with an infinitely better interface? Why doesn’t KCM/ST focus on maintaining the data instead of wasting resources building ugly apps when others are already doing a better job?

    3. Good question. I maintain the iPhone version of OneBusAway, and I’m a grad student at UW. As I understand it, while SoundTransit maintains the real-time data servers for OneBusAway that serves all of the apps, they don’t have dedicated developers for maintaining the apps. Part of the reason is because the app serves regions outside of Puget Sound (such as Tampa, Atlanta, NYC area, and some regions in Canada), and works with the local transit agencies to those regions as well. Another reason is that it is still a platform for research for us here at UW as well as in Tampa and Atlanta, and so the project remains open-source in order to be flexible for research needs. (I recently incorporated my own research project into OneBusAway iOS: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/03/17/onebusaway-for-the-visually-impaired/ ) It’s a bit unclear what the future of OneBusAway will be once researchers such as myself move on, like Brian Ferris did, and especially now that SoundTransit has their own official app, in addition to running OneBusAway.

      To that end, I was honestly just as surprised to see about SoundTransit’s new app incorporating real-time data with their trip planner this morning as the rest of transit riders here in Puget Sound. We (the OneBusAway app developers) haven’t heard much from them in the past few months. We’ve been communicating about the data issues that had been plaguing OneBusAway the last month and a half, but I wasn’t aware they were working on a new app. I know that they have been wanting to improve their trip planner for some time in order to connect the various agencies around Puget Sound, and I am glad that they have made some progress there. Not sure why we didn’t work together on this, because we have been wanting to incorporate a real-time trip planner into OneBusAway for some time, but there have been issues with that. Anyway, we still hope to have one in there eventually.

      1. I’m confused as to whether these improvements are specific to OBA or are to the underlying data. TransitApp’s data for King County Metro has been totally wonky the last month or so also, and I’m wondering if that will also be improved now.

        Also to those wondering why not just support third party apps I can think of another reason. I think TransitApp works amazingly for folks on their phones, especially regulars. I love how it can keep my favorite routes pinned, seems to remember which direction I’m usually headed, and can grab from many routes with nearby stops and give directions. However, OBA is really amazing at those stop monitors (ex: 12th and Campus Parkway) since OBA is stop-based. So I think the two are really complimentary and love them both.

  2. It looks like they’ve gotten the destination indicators reversed on the #3. All the other buses in the example photo are northwest destinations, but the #3 is “Downtown Seattle East Jefferson”. That’s where it can from.

    1. If you imagine putting a “via” in-between the two destinations, it often helps. Unfortunately, KCM puts a comma instead, which makes you think the bus is going the opposite direction.

      1. Except I’m assuming that those trips don’t *end* in Downtown Seattle. I find it hard to believed that in that 40 minute spam, there are no Queen Anne-bound 2s or 3s.

      2. No, it IS going the opposite direction. All the others have northwestward destinations. This route has a southeastward destination. The stop identifier specifically says “NW”.

  3. Sure wish KCM would have invested that $86k in to contractors to work on OBA and providing more accurate and useful data rather than building yet another app. This is another example of how one transit agency would be better for the Puget Sound. CT is rumored to be also building their own app and to date have not provided developers with any transit data. Why do we pay for the same thing over and over again?

    While this OBA work is certainly appreciated I’m not sure I’d go so far to say the Data Services work ST is doing is great. We still don’t have arrival data for Link. Additionally the article linked to says we were supposed to have improved arrival data at the beginning of last year but we are just now getting it.

      1. The issues are many, and honestly i’m not sure a merger would benefit anyone. The likely outcome would be the Metro administration, changing their name on paper to Sound Transit (and reporting to same), than taking over the operations departments of CT (CT/FT) and PT. Their operations would than become just another set of Metro bases. At the end of the day the same problems metro has would be amplified to a regional scale. We have all seen the disaster that came of them over the last few years (We’re gonna cut! Were gonna cut big! We’re cutting little bits here and there but the big one is still coming! Oh wait, we have the money now so all the work we put into optimizing the system with the coming cuts and refocusing the service where its needed, we’re just gonna file it in the circular file and forget this all ever happened.) would be a regional issue. Furthermore, politically I don’t think the politicians want to hand their local system over to “Seattle”. While it honestly does make some sense, and I think there needs to be some efforts made for more regional unity on the back end (changing the PSRC into an administration more like LA’s Metro, Chicago’s RTA, NY’s MTA – etc, moving some regional projects like ORCA, Service planning (and to and extend route and service branding), P&R management and administration, and have it control the purse strings a little bit more to give them teeth, and charge service hours to the county the service is being provided in, not where the service originated from)

    1. Merging is an extremely big change with many potential unintended and unforeseen consequences. It may or may not be beneficial but it requires a thorough study, and not just doing it because a few budget items would theoretically be streamlined. There’s a reason Metro is not part of Sound Transit and Everett Transit is not part of Community Transit; it’s called local control, different scale of issues, and different budget resources relative to needs. Some people have suggested unifying all Puget Sound transit agencies, but just as many have suggested splitting off Seattle Transit from Metro. Because city-based agencies can focus on their own priorities and give more service than the larger agency is willing to provide. That’s the argument for Seattle Transit. I assume Everett Transit is the same, because why else hasn’t it folded itself into Community Transit? Overarching transit agencies are excellent in some cities, as long as their leadership has the willingness and authority to put transit where the ridership is. But how do we guarantee that, with suburbs wanting more service than their ridership and land use can use, and neglecting the cities? Look at the head of the state’s transportation committee, who’s concerned that Puget Sound is getting most of the projects and wants to spread it more around the state to the rural cities. Or look at ST’s “complete the Spine first”. Also look at the different budget resources of the different jurisdictions. One can provide more runs per urbanized citizen, another less, and one can afford a lower fare, another not. If you put all these under a common budget, the first group of routes will be squeezed, and the lower fares will have pressure to go up. Increases in one jurisdiction mean decreases in another, unless additional resources come into the system, which may or may not be part of the merger deal.

      1. Splitting Seattle Transit back off from metro may be a good idea. Seattle has enough ridership on its own, and enough needs of its own that it could work. It would be interesting to see how the numbers would work out, both operations, capital, and one-time costs of the transaction (purchasing property and rolling stock from metro, setting up administration, IT, Radio/CAD/AVL, and of course re-branding everything). I think this would be popular with the city as it would give them much more control over their local transit service.

  4. Government transit agencies building mobile apps. Your tax dollars at work! Then they turn around and act confused when people don’t want to increase funding for Metro and Metro claims they cut the fat.

    1. @Jon Ditto. Don’t forget to add the Center Park Bus to the ongoing list of Metro boondoggles.

    2. Look around the country. There are a number of transit agencies (private and government) that are offering their own branded apps. So why is that a negative issue?

      1. I think it’s negative because those apps are redundant to other third-party apps. It leads to a (relatively minor) waste of taxpayer bucks, but it also contributes to the perception that the agency is bloated, behind the times, and/or out of touch. But that perception might be limited to younger folks…I don’t know. In any case, and for whatever reasons, there’s an unwillingness to axe legacy programs and/or an unwillingness to “rely” on third parties to fill this particular customer information role. Maybe it’s justified somehow, but in the age of severe budget cuts, I question an agency that cuts service before it cuts the development of a (redundant) trip planning app.

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