Thursday, July 24, 2014

Help us evaluate StopInfo!

Some of you may recall our announcement of StopInfo a few months ago. In summary, StopInfo is a service linked with OneBusAway for the Puget Sound region that provides detailed information about bus stops. The starting information about bus stops comes from King County Metro's database, but the system is able to provide even more information than Metro offers by drawing from information contributed by transit riders such as yourselves, who often visit these stops as you go about your daily commutes. Although this information is helpful for anyone searching for a bus stop, the system is especially designed to give people who are blind or low vision landmark information about bus stops to hopefully make them easier to find.

screenshot of stopinfo information page for stevens way and benton ln
StopInfo's information page for the bus stop on Stevens Way & Benton Ln.


Currently, StopInfo is only integrated into the iOS version of OneBusAway, but we are hoping to be able to improve the system and expand to other platforms as well as other regions in the near future. To do so, we could really use your help. Have you contributed to StopInfo by verifying or adding information? What are your thoughts? What would make you more likely to contribute more or to contribute at all?

We've developed a very quick survey to collect your thoughts about contributing to StopInfo. The survey will only take a couple minutes of your time, and your responses will be used to help us evaluate and improve the system in order to make sure information is kept accurate and up to date. All responses will be kept confidential and your identity anonymous, unless you choose to share it. Of course, feel free to also add comments on this post if you have more feedback on the system in general. We really appreciate any feedback you are willing to give us.

Please click here to take the survey. You do not need to have contributed in order to take the survey.

Thank you, and happy traveling!

The StopInfo team at the University of Washington
stopinfo@onebusaway.org



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Announcing StopInfo!

We are excited to announce the launch of StopInfo! StopInfo is a new service linked with OneBusAway for the Puget Sound region that provides detailed information about bus stops. Our initial focus is on increasing the accessibility of bus stops for people who are blind or visually impaired. Knowing information ahead of time about a bus stop, such as which side of the intersection it is on and what type of bus sign it has, can reduce the time and hassle it takes to find the bus stop. This information also includes landmarks surrounding the bus stop, such as shelters and trash cans. We are excited to partner with the community to not only increase access for people who are blind or visually impaired, but for anyone who may be looking for an unfamiliar bus stop. We look forward to expanding this project to provide information about other facets such as wheelchair accessibility.

The best part about the launch is that you use OneBusAway on iOS, you can help! The starting information about bus stops comes from King County Metro’s database, but the system can also show more detailed information than is available from Metro. This detailed information can be verified or added to by anyone. So while you wait at the bus stop, you’ll be able to check to make sure the information provided is accurate and to add information about other helpful landmarks in the area. Any OneBusAway user can verify information without an account, but to add information, we request that you be logged in using your Google or Facebook account. (We don’t keep passwords or anything like that – we just use the “OpenAuth” service to let Google or Facebook authenticate your login.) Furthermore, users can contribute other helpful information like closed or moved bus stops, or whether a stop is well-lit for when you're traveling at night. 

To get to StopInfo, once you are at the page that shows arrival times for a stop, press the “i” (information) icon at the upper right (as shown below). VoiceOver users can access this button, called "About this Stop" after the stop name.


This button will take you to a view where you can see information about the stop (as seen below) and nearby landmarks. You can verify or add information by tapping the “Verify or add stop information” link near the bottom of this page. To log in, tap, the “Log in with existing account” link at the bottom. We’ve also extensively tested the interface using VoiceOver for blind riders.



For now, StopInfo is only available for the iPhone and only for King County Metro. You can discover this new feature by downloading the newest version update (2.2) in the App Store on iOS. We hope to expand both to other platforms and to other regions in the future!

StopInfo has been developed by UW Computer Science & Engineering students and staff Cindy Bennett, Caitlin Bonnar, Meg Campbell, and Aengus McMillan, with advice from Alan Borning. Many thanks to our partners at Metro for providing the initial database of information! Detailed research study information is here: http://stopinfo.pugetsound.onebusaway.org/. For questions or feedback, please use our contact form at http://stopinfo.pugetsound.onebusaway.org/contact_forms/new.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

OneBusAway multi-region has officially launched!

We’d like to share some exciting news about the OneBusAway project - the multi-region initiative to bring OneBusAway to cities outside of the Puget Sound area has officially launched!

Previously, all the official OneBusAway apps (Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, Windows 8/RT) were configured to work in Puget Sound upon being downloaded from the respective app stores. We wanted to expand the OneBusAway apps to new cities (i.e., "regions") - but, this meant figuring out technical details for making this possible, and updating all the apps so they can automatically “discover” new cities.

Fast-forward to now - OneBusAway has officially launched in Tampa, and is in beta in Atlanta, including all the mobile apps! For example, a transit rider in Tampa can now simply download the OneBusAway app to their mobile device from any app store, and it will automatically work in Tampa!

While making OneBusAway available in another two cities is a great accomplishment, we’re most excited about the future - the OneBusAway apps are now easily deployable to any new city that sets up their own OneBusAway server. The new server can then be added to the OneBusAway Server Directory, and voila, transit apps for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, and Windows 8/RT in the new city! We also hope that having open-source apps available in new cities will encourage local software developers from those cities to get involved in the project, further enhancing the OneBusAway developer community.

If you have a OneBusAway server, and would like to make the apps available in your city, please reach out to us on the OneBusAway Developers group (onebusaway-developers@googlegroups.com).

The multi-region initiative was a big project, and a lot of people helped make this possible - Brian Ferris created the original OneBusAway server software as well as the iPhone app. Paul Watts (Android), Rob Smith (Windows Phone), and Michael Braude (Windows 8) created apps for their respective platforms. Additional contributors to the multi-region features on iPhone include Aaron Brethorst, Chaya Hiruncharoenvate, Caitlin Bonnar, Sebastian Kie├čling, and Ben Bodenmiller. S. Morris Rose has had primary responsibility for maintaining OneBusAway in Puget Sound from summer 2011- 2013, and continues to contribute significantly. Landon Reed, Candace Brakewood, Aaron Gooze and Derek Edwards were instrumental in establishing OneBusAway Atlanta. Alan Borning, Kari Watkins, and I have led the charge deploying OBA in our respective cities, and I pitched in on the OneBusAway Android multi-region development.

We'd also like to acknowledge funding sources - the National Center for Transit Research at the Center for Urban Transportation Research at USF; National Center for Transportation Productivity and Management, GVU Center and IPAT at Georgia Tech, and the National Science Foundation.

Finally, we thank our supporters at the transit agencies that have provided data and resources, including Sound Transit, King County Metro, Pierce Transit, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

It’s been exciting to see OneBusAway moving into its next big phase of providing real-time transit apps to cities around the world!

Sincerely,
Sean Barbeau
Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Future of OneBusAway

I wanted to update all of you OneBusAway users on the status of the system.

OneBusAway started out as a student project at the University of Washington, and progressed to become the primary topic of the PhD dissertations for Brian Ferris (Computer Science & Engineering) and Kari Watkins (Civil & Environmental Engineering).  Both Brian and Kari graduated in summer 2011; Brian headed to work for Google in Zurich, and Kari to become an assistant professor at Georgia Tech.  Since OneBusAway had become so widely used, three area agencies (King County Metro, Sound Transit, and Pierce Transit) contracted with the University of Washington to continue running OneBusAway for a year, and then again for another six months.  There are now over 100,000 users per week of the system in Puget Sound.  The contract is expiring in mid-May, and sometime around then Sound Transit will be taking over running it.  (Sound Transit already has an experimental version of OneBusAway running in parallel with the production system.)

We hope that the transition will be relatively seamless.  OneBusAway will continue to provide real-time arrival information for Metro, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, and Intercity Transit, with schedule-only information for several others — and hopefully more in the future. Existing apps should continue to function without change.

At the same time, instances of OneBusAway have been brought up in other regions, including Atlanta, Detroit, and Tampa; the OneBusAway Enterprise system (derived from the core OneBusAway) is the basis for the BusTime system in the greater New York region.  To help support this, we are making versions of the OneBusAway apps that will work in multiple regions.  We university types will also continue doing research on providing better and additional types of transit information (such as alerts, real-time replanning, vehicle capacity information, and others), integrating incentives for transit use with OneBusAway, crowd sourcing the detection and resolution of data problems with real-time transit data, and providing tools that seek to benefit all riders, including blind and low-vision, mobility impaired, and others.

I wanted to end with thanks to a few of the many people who have helped with OneBusAway.  In alphabetical order: to Joel Bradbury and Dan Dailey, for pioneering real-time transit information in Puget Sound and continuing to provide data to OneBusAway for much of the project's lifetime; to Brian Ferris, for continuing to provide essential help even after moving to Zurich; to S. Morris Rose, software engineer in Computer Science & Engineering, for being the mainstay of our efforts to keep OneBusAway up; and finally to King County Metro, Pierce Transit, and Sound Transit for being willing to invest in keeping the system going and helping transition it to a long-term home.

sincerely, Alan Borning Professor, Department of Computer Science & Engineering

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Announcing the OneBusAway Ambassadors Program


Hi there, OBA power users. Do you want to get in on the action?

We all recognize that there have been data errors in Seattle-area real-time bus arrival information stemming from a variety of sources. We also all know that King County Metro is working hard to fix it, but they are limited to their own diagnostic data.  It’s the user on the street and on the bus who knows exactly when they get a prediction error and it’s that user that we’re giving a chance to help fix it.  Hopefully you’ve all seen the error reporting feature in the iPhone app.  (A similar feature is being developed for Android as well.)  To build off of this feature and use those error reports better, we have a new program starting up called the OneBusAway Ambassadors.  OneBusAway has always been a community-generated and supported tool.  We were started by UW students with help from some great UW faculty.  We are trying to maintain that community support.  So if you are a OneBusAway fan and are interested in beta testing-type endeavors, now is your change to jump in.  We’re currently recruiting volunteers to serve as OneBusAway Ambassadors.

The Ambassador program will initially involve a set of OBA Ambassadors viewing and validating the incoming error reports created via the iPhone error reporting function as well as validating emails to OBA regarding prediction errors.  The OBA Ambassadors will act as liaisons in which to aggregate and identify trends in errors based on the actual bus or the route that is being reported. This information will get passed back to the relevant agency or the OBA staff in order to assist them in error identification and resolution.  We are currently planning on each Ambassador  devoting about 2-3 hours per week.   The rewards will be endless in the form of kudos from the public, knowing that you are making transit easier to use, and really cool OneBusAway Ambassador apparel that will make you the envy of your transit buddies.

If you are interested in being a OneBusAway Ambassador, email Kari Watkins at kariwat@uw.edu.

Thanks for your support of OneBusAway!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Please Take the New OneBusAway User Survey


After three years and many changes, the UW team that runs OneBusAway is looking for feedback about the service. Have you used OneBusAway within the past three years? If so, please help us understand how you use it by taking a quick survey, located here: (https://catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/kariwat/168983). The survey is anonymous and those who take the survey are eligible to win a $25 iTunes gift card. Thanks again for your input.

Monday, April 30, 2012

On the Metro Transition to GPS


A user asks:

When will OneBusAway be based on GPS tracking of each Metro bus, so that it will be more accurate and work (at least for locating buses) even when buses have to be re-routed?

Would that it were that simple. We are told that the transition to GPS, already well over half complete, will be over by early Autumn, but it may deliver less than you thought it promised.

Here's the basic idea of how OneBusAway works. There are two parts:

1. About four times a year, OBA gets a schedule from each of the agencies, including Metro. The schedule says "here's where and when all the buses are going to stop from now until the end of the service interval several months from now." For example, it might say- for one of the almost 30,000 KCM trips the schedule describes- that there's going to be a route 16 trip every weekday starting at 7:18 AM- and here's where and when it's going to stop- and this is the ID it will be labeled with.

2. Every day, all day, we get real-time reports of trips- tens of thousands of them. What we get in each report isn't so much "here's where the bus is" but rather "here's how this trip is performing against the scheduled trip." Something like "trip X is running Y seconds off schedule."  Ahead of, behind, or spot on. That's called "schedule deviation."

So- we know where the agency said it would be, and we know what the "schedule deviation" is. We might also know where the bus is, but it's all but irrelevant.

A user is standing on the street at a stop, and she asks OBA: tell me about any trips that are headed to this stop. OBA looks at the schedule and looks at the real-time reports and computes: here are the trips that are supposed to be there soonish, and here's what we know about how those trips are performing. Add it all up, and it's able to give you the display you seen on a smart phone: this trip looks to be five minutes late, we've seen no recent realtime data for this other trip but it's scheduled to be here in eight minutes so we'll show you that, and here are five other trips with this or that status.

How does GPS make any of this better from the old bus-location system? Only this way: the old system delivered less frequent reports of less accurate location data. Therefore, real-time reporting could compute less accurate schedule deviation.

GPS is not a silver bullet. It does make some new stuff possible, such as detecting when a bus is off route, but there is a bunch of design and engineering between where we are and presenting that to a rider in a useful way.  In particular, we are some ways from being able to present the rider with the actual location of a bus that is off-route.