Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Future of OneBusAway

Dear riders,

Hi. We've not been properly introduced. My name is Brian and I'm the creator of OneBusAway. I'm a bus rider just like you and I started OneBusAway almost three years ago with the simple goal of making it easier to ride the bus. I'm also a grad student at UW getting my PhD in computer science. I managed to convince my advisors a while back to let me work on OneBusAway as part of my graduate research and things have been going well ever since.

Perhaps too well: there are now over fifty thousand of you using OneBusAway every week. That's an amazing number of riders for a grad student project. Of course, the trouble with grad students is that we sometimes actually graduate. Assuming my defense goes well a week from Thursday, that'll be my trouble too. The big question then is, "What's next?"

For me, I want to keep helping transit riders. Working on this project has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done and I have no intention of stopping now if I can help it. What's more, I want to help riders world-wide, not just in Seattle. That and a lot of other reasons led me to my ultimate decision.

I'm going to work for Google. Specifically, the Google Transit team. If you've ever used Google Maps to plan a trip using public transit from point A to point B, then you're familiar with their work. Why Google? To put it simply, Google has done more to improve than usability of public transit than any other company I can think of. Their transit trip planner has made trip planning possible for hundreds of agencies where it wasn't before, and dramatically improved the trip planning experience for many agencies with planners of their own. What's more, projects like OneBusAway would not even be possible without the work of Google engineers. Their efforts to establish the GTFS spec for exchanging transit schedule data really launched the open transit data revolution that has lead to apps like OneBusAway and countless others. And perhaps you've heard they're getting into real-time?

What does that mean for you? My goal is that some day soon, you'll be getting all your transit info from Google. I'm sure some of you are skeptical of this goal, but I hope to change your mind. While I don't claim to speak for my future employer, Google already has some of the best tools anywhere for helping pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and yes even car drivers, and they are only going to get better. I plan on doing everything > I < can to help that process along. And before I leave for Google this summer, I'm doing everything I can to make sure Puget Sound transit agencies are putting their best foot forward in terms of providing the data that powers services like OneBusAway and Google Transit. I won't say too much about that now, but in case you doubt my conviction, know that I'll be defending my dissertation and going through new employee orientation at King County Metro less than 24 hours apart. Dreams really do come true people ; )

In the meantime, we're not pulling the plug on OneBusAway the day I graduate. OneBusAway is NOT "abandoning Seattle". I'm doing everything in my power to make sure the lights stay on and while I can't say exactly what that will look like at this time, know that there are a number of options on the table and I'm confident we'll find a solution going forward.

As I've said before, working on OneBusAway has been an incredibly rewarding experience and it wouldn't be possible without the thousands of OneBusAway users like you. If you're anything like me, I know OneBusAway is a critical part of your daily commute (I don't even know how to get get home when OneBusAway is down). I'm doing everything I can in the future to keep building tools that help make using public transit a little easier for riders like you. While I can't promise exactly what that future will look like, all that I can ask is that you judge me by the work I've done as I pursue the work I hope to do.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

OBA Blue - Real-Time Trip Planning iPhone App BETA

Update: the Beta sign-up is closed!

One of the top-requested features for OneBusAway since pretty much day one has been to combine the trip planning capabilities of King County Metro's or Google's trip planner with the real-time transit data provided by OneBusAway.

I'm happy to reveal that we're a little bit closer to realizing that goal. I've been working in secret (poorly kept if you know where to look) on real-time trip planning capabilities for OneBusAway and a corresponding iPhone app. It's been slow going... did I mention I defend my PhD in three weeks? However, things are starting to come together and I'm ready to start gathering feedback from OneBusAway users.

That's right, we're having a beta and you're invited. Details follow, but first, a brief glimpse of what you're in for:

Update: the Beta sign-up is closed!