Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In Defense of MyBus

In a post on Sunday, I attempted to explain why OneBusAway service had been spotty ever since the King County Metro services changes on Saturday, February 6th. That explanation put a lot of the blame on the MyBus service, which provides the AVL feed used by OneBusAway. One of the MyBus maintainers took serious exception with me placing all the blame on them, and rightly so.

MyBus started as a research project at UW over a decade ago by EE Professor Dan Dailey. Dan and a couple of his associates have been keeping MyBus running ever since on their own time without any compensation and without much thanks. Without their work, we wouldn't have any real-time tracking information for King County buses and we wouldn't have tools like OneBusAway. I'm grateful for their work and I apologize for suggesting that they care any less about improving public transit for King County riders.

My bigger issue is that tools like MyBus and OneBusAway are increasingly services that King County transit riders depend on every day to use the bus. When OneBusAway has issues, I hear about it. Heck, I'm a OneBusAway user myself. When OneBusAway is down, I barely remember how to get home. [Also my wife hassles me]

One of the points I was trying to make in my original post is that Metro has an internal AVL feed that is (in my understanding) very similar to the one maintained by MyBus, with the exception that they have staff paid to keep it up to date with the latest schedule data. If that data was exposed to developers like me, there would be less downtime for users of systems like OneBusAway. Of course, Metro has their own reasons for not exposing the feed, one of which is that they have limited resources themselves.

Nobody is getting rich providing real-time arrival information for King County buses, but a lot of riders are finding it much easier to ride the bus when we do. As long as that's the case, I'll keep fighting to provide services like OneBusAway and I appreciate the efforts of the MyBus staff and staff at King County Metro who help make it all possible.


Anonymous said...

I've been using onebusaway both the iPhone app as well as web interface and telephone assistance now for a couple months and I find that the information from onebusaway is more often than not easier to find relevant information than it is to use on line tripplanner and definitely easier to use than BUS-TIME automated service. Determining what choice to press on Metro is a guessing game since they don't really have directionals very logical many times. The only advantage I can see for continuing to use Metro's own schedule information is that you can request information several days in advance. Onebusaway works well.

Adam P said...

Thanks to EVERYONE (OBA, UW EE, Metro, etc.) that work so hard to keep this information up and running. You know you are doing something right when users have a high expectations of you.

Hopeful a snowball of integration and institution support has been begun which, in the future, will make issues like this a thing of the past.

Compared to a few years ago things are night and day and I expect in a few years with Rapidride and GPS based tracking, real-time information will be engrained as something that transit just has. Not an add on as it is now.

Again thanks and keep up the great work.

Tom Richards said...

I also am thankful for the people that work hard on keeping this service available. I am very dependent on onebusaway.
Metro should be providing this as apps like onebusaway really improve the quality of using metro.

mjamesd said...

Is there a way I can contact my local representatives about this issue? Maybe the project could get some public funding, or maybe KC Metro could get some funding to be able to handle the data load from opening up the feed to OBA? I'd like to help! OBA is awesome!

alex said...

Such a great web app, helps me plan my way home after work, also helps me direct kids getting home so i don't have to go pick them up.

Thx for all the hard work