Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Future of OneBusAway

I wanted to update all of you OneBusAway users on the status of the system.

OneBusAway started out as a student project at the University of Washington, and progressed to become the primary topic of the PhD dissertations for Brian Ferris (Computer Science & Engineering) and Kari Watkins (Civil & Environmental Engineering).  Both Brian and Kari graduated in summer 2011; Brian headed to work for Google in Zurich, and Kari to become an assistant professor at Georgia Tech.  Since OneBusAway had become so widely used, three area agencies (King County Metro, Sound Transit, and Pierce Transit) contracted with the University of Washington to continue running OneBusAway for a year, and then again for another six months.  There are now over 100,000 users per week of the system in Puget Sound.  The contract is expiring in mid-May, and sometime around then Sound Transit will be taking over running it.  (Sound Transit already has an experimental version of OneBusAway running in parallel with the production system.)

We hope that the transition will be relatively seamless.  OneBusAway will continue to provide real-time arrival information for Metro, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, and Intercity Transit, with schedule-only information for several others — and hopefully more in the future. Existing apps should continue to function without change.

At the same time, instances of OneBusAway have been brought up in other regions, including Atlanta, Detroit, and Tampa; the OneBusAway Enterprise system (derived from the core OneBusAway) is the basis for the BusTime system in the greater New York region.  To help support this, we are making versions of the OneBusAway apps that will work in multiple regions.  We university types will also continue doing research on providing better and additional types of transit information (such as alerts, real-time replanning, vehicle capacity information, and others), integrating incentives for transit use with OneBusAway, crowd sourcing the detection and resolution of data problems with real-time transit data, and providing tools that seek to benefit all riders, including blind and low-vision, mobility impaired, and others.

I wanted to end with thanks to a few of the many people who have helped with OneBusAway.  In alphabetical order: to Joel Bradbury and Dan Dailey, for pioneering real-time transit information in Puget Sound and continuing to provide data to OneBusAway for much of the project's lifetime; to Brian Ferris, for continuing to provide essential help even after moving to Zurich; to S. Morris Rose, software engineer in Computer Science & Engineering, for being the mainstay of our efforts to keep OneBusAway up; and finally to King County Metro, Pierce Transit, and Sound Transit for being willing to invest in keeping the system going and helping transition it to a long-term home.

sincerely, Alan Borning Professor, Department of Computer Science & Engineering