Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why did you ride the bus last weekend?

Normally, there is a pretty regular pattern to OneBusAway usage. Most of our traffic comes from daily commuters, with the bulk of the traffic coming during the weekday and then droping off during the weekend.

People Don't Use OneBusAway on the Weekends

But last weekend was different:

Except When They Do

There was no weekend drop-off. I wonder why?

The bulk of the traffic was direct visits, which usually indicates people who regularly use the site and have their favorite stops bookmarked. So it wasn't a link from a blog that brought lots of new visitors...

My best guess is that Seattle Green Fest was last weekend. Perhaps all you transit-friendly folks were taking the bus downtown to learn more about the latest in green living?

That's my theory. Why did you ride the bus last weekend?

Monday, March 30, 2009

The State of OneBusAway Address: Introductions

It's been a while since our last blog post, so I'd like to mention some exciting things that have been going on in OneBusAway land. There are actually too many exciting things to be contained in one lonley blog post, so stay tuned for a few follow ups in the near future regarding what we've been working on.

But first... what do I mean by "what we've been working on"? When I talk to people about OneBusAway, I always tend to say "we've been working on this" or "we're planning that", at which point my friends ask just who this "we" is. For the most part, that "we" has been me. However, I'm happy (and embarrassed that I haven't done it sooner) to introduce my newest partner-in-crime in this transit hacking endeavor.

I'd like to introduce Kari Watkins. Kari is a grad student in the Civil Engineering department at University of Washington. Kari does research on understanding why people do and don't take transit with the goal of getting more people to switch to a friendlier mode. That is to say, Kari actually studies mass transit, has worked in industry, and can speak knowledgeably about transit issues. I can claim no such thing myself, so it's obviously awesome to have Kari aboard. More importantly, I've personally seen Kari cruising around Seattle with her two girls in tow on both bike and bus, so I'm willing to argue that Kari is even more committed to this whole mass transit thing than I am.

Kari also gets credit for the OneBusAway name. Kari, along with Evan Siroky, had worked on a class project at UW to build a tool that let people search for nearby restaurants, parks, grocery stores, and other amenities that could be easily reached using mass transit. They called the system One Bus Away. I met Evan at a Seattle Transit Blog meetup in March of 2008, where he mentioned the project. I told Evan that I'd like to help work on the project, but I think he had already moved on to other transit hacking endeavors.

At that same meetup, Evan mentioned who I could contact at King Country Metro to get a dump of their transit database. That data dump lead to my work on real-time arrival tools and when it came time to launch a few months later, I couldn't help but notice that the http://onebusaway.org/ domain name was available. I bought, I launched, and OneBusAway as you know it today was born.

What I didn't know is that while Evan was no longer working on the original One Bus Away class project, Kari was. When she went to purchase the http://onebusaway.org/ domain name herself, she was dismayed to find that it was already taken. At this point, Evan put Kari and I in touch. I think Kari was rightfully a little skeptical of me at our first meeting, since I had effectively stolen her project name. However, we quickly realized that with my computer science skills and Kari's transit skills, we could accomplish a lot more working together than either of us could individually. Also, I promised to build Kari a real, kick-ass Web 2.0 version of her original One Bus Away concept to make up for misappropriating the OneBusAway name. How could we go wrong?

I'm proud to say that we haven't. You may have noticed a new feature of OneBusAway: the Explore tool. The Explore tool is just what Kari and Evan envisioned so long ago: the ability to search for nearby restaurants, grocery stores, parks, and other local features that area easily accessible using mass transit. For example, if I ever wondered what great mexican restaurants I can get to in less than 20 minutes by bus from my house, now I know.

As I mentioned, Kari and I have some pretty big plans in store for OneBusAway, which I look forward to telling you more about. As for now, I just wanted to welcome Kari aboard. I can say we have some big plans now, and truly mean it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

OneBusAway Database Problem

OneBusAway was down for about two hours this evening. The database server we use at UW went down and we temporarily transfered to a local database in the meantime. The UW server came back up around 9:30 pm and we're now back using the main DB.

I will have to give some thought to database fail-over.