Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Suprise Partial Holiday Service Updates

If you are like me, you were probably caught off guard by the updated Partial Holiday scheduling for the week of Dec. 29th. The official service announcements can be found on Metro's page:

http://metro.kingcounty.gov/up/holiday-service.html

The main update is that for Monday, Dec. 29th through Wednesday, Dec. 31, Partial Holiday schedules will be in effect. See Metro's website for the full list of update.

Unfortunately, I'm back in NC for the holidays and missed the announcements from Metro, so schedules were not accurate for Monday, Dec. 29th. They should be up-to-date now.

As a reminder, you can actually see full scheduling information for your stop in OneBusAway. The timetable page for a stop can be accessed on the web from real-time arrival page for a given stop:

Complete Timetable

It can also be accessed from the stop search map:

Complete Timetable

Like more than a few people, I first heard about the updates through SLOG and STB:

SLOG: Happy Holidays
STB: Screw it, we're not running this week
STB: Follow Up: Partial Holiday Service

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snowpocalypse Update

So maybe you noticed it snowed today...

As mentioned on the OneBusAway arrival pages, real-time arrival predictions aren't accurate for buses on adverse weather reroute. Today that was pretty much every bus.

Yet despite the sketchiness of arrival data, today was OneBusAway's busiest by far. We almost broke the 2k visitor count. I can only imagine what kind of traffic the transit agencies were seeing.

In order to make OneBusAway a little bit more useful in spite of all the re-routes and cancelations, I'm trying to quickly add a few features. Most visible is notification of when a route has been officially suspended by Metro. Here is an example:

Example Suspended Route

You can also now click on the bus destination to bring up a specific page for that bus route that contains some extra diagnostic info that might help you decide if you really want to wait in the snow for that particular bus.

Of course, the biggest problem is the re-routes themselves. As far as I can tell, re-routes are managed on the fly, which means that re-routes do not even match the suggested route listed for some routes online (see this example for Route 30).

About the only solution I can imagine is some sort of collaboratively edited map where riders (and maybe even transit operators) can updates routes to the best of their knowledge. Even better if that info can be fed automatically back into OneBusAway so it can let you know that a bus is never coming to your stop. Sounds tricky to implement... maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Finding Your Stop Number

Back in the summer of 2006, I developed an early version of OneBusAway that was basically a phone interface to http://mybus.org. It was an interesting proof of concept, but kind of a pain to use because you still had to know your MyBus timepoint ID ahead of time if you wanted to get arrival info in the field.

Fast forward to early 2008 when someone mentioned to me that each Metro KC bus stop actually had the physical stop number printed on the posted schedule:

Stop Number Identification

It's definitely not exactly obvious, but it's there. With a unique id on each stop, it was now possible to build a system that could map that id into arrival info for the stop and would actually be useful in the field since you could now walk up to any stop and get arrival info. This led to the development of the OneBusAway real-time system as it exists today.

Fast forward again to the September Metro KC service revision. Due to a glitch in the printing of a lot of the posted schedules, the stop number was no longer visible or it was cut off completely. This definitely doesn't help the usability of OneBusAway, but there have been a few bright notes.

First, a commenter on the Bus Chick post about OneBusAway pointed out that all the bus shelters have the stop number painted in the upper left corner. True enough:

Metro KC Bus Shelters Include the Stop Number

Second, there is hope that some day Metro KC will roll out their new stop signs that more prominently feature the stop number:



Finally, OneBusAway stickers have magically started to appear at a few stops. I wonder where those came from. See this Orphan Road post for more info.

Seattle Magazine + 1k Milestone + Updates

Lots of good news for OneBusAway these days:

First, OneBusAway got an article in Seattle Magazine! Honest to god print journalism... we must be legitimate now.

Second, OneBusAway had it's first 1,000 hits day on Wednesday. I know that's a drop in the bucket for major sites, but still kind of a nice milestone.

Third, I just checked in about a three-week backlog of bug fixes to the code-base. Includes some major bug fixes plus a few interesting new features. I'll try to write them up later.