Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Feature: Simple Arrival Notification - Looking for Feedback

A common usage scenario for OneBusAway is sitting at your computer, trying to decide when you need to leave to catch the bus. Checking the OBA page for your stop gives you a good idea of when your bus will arrive. However, things get tricky if you check too far ahead of time. The predicted arrival time can change while you are waiting and, unless you are glued to the OBA stop page, you might miss the important fact that a bus that was running 5 minutes late a while ago is now back on schedule. Time to run for the bus!

To help with this situation, we've added a simple notification service to OneBusAway and we're looking for your feedback. The new feature isn't live on the main site yet, but you can try it out at:

Specifically, you'll notice the OBA stop page has changed (click for a larger version):

Real-Time Arrival With Alarm Notification

There is now an alarm-clock icon next to each arriving bus. Click on it to get a notification alarm screen (click for a larger version):

Real-Time Arrival With Alarm Notification

The interface is pretty simple. Tell us how many minutes before the arrival of your bus that you want to be notified and specify either a sound or a popup alarm. So that you don't have to change these values every time you use the tool, you can save your settings for specific stops or set defaults for all stops. Just leave the window open in the background and it will periodically check on the predited arrival of your bus and notify you when the time is right.

And that's it. The notification is nothing fancy, but it's enough to grab your attention if you are easily distracted on the Internet (like me) and forget to check on the status of your bus.

As I mentioned, I'm looking for people to try out the feature and give me feedback before I push the feature to the main site. Comments on this blog entry, over email ( or through Twitter (@onebusaway) are much appreciated.

Note that we are working on fancier notifications like SMS, IM, email, Tweets, iPhone Push, etc but that it's not at the top of the work queue at the moment. If you want to vote for your favorite notification method, feel free to vote in the comments.