Between the continuous budget cuts, rush hour traffic issues, and rain—which while routine always seems to muck up Seattle drivers—our bus system is notoriously temperamental. But thanks to some innovative computer scientists at the UW back in 2008, Seattle’s had a solution in the form of “OneBusAway;” an app that lets users track their bus’ arrival in real time.
Since OneBusAway was so widely used the UW contracted King County Metro, Sound Transit, and Pierce Transit to help keep it running for the past year and a half. But now that the two students behind it have moved on to greener pastures (real jobs), the reigns of OneBusAway are being handed over to Sound Transit to run completely.
Alan Borning, a professor in the computer science and engineering department at UW said in a OneBusAway blog post:
“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.”
I consider OneBusAway to be indispensable in my commutes, and I’m not alone: in April of 2010 the app had an average of 20,000 users a week. It now boasts over 100,000. Bruce Gray, a Sound Transit representative, says, in the short term, nothing will change for the average user with the switch.
“Essentially Sound Transit is going to take over hosting and maintenance of data that drives the application; it’s the back end information [that’s going to change],” Gray says. Ultimately, Gray hopes the trade off will be part of a broader effort of transit agencies to make more trip information and data available to open source developers, saying that Seattle is “a little behind” when it comes to transit.
Borning said in his blog post that his “university types” will continue to offer research that will work to provide better transit information, and deal with any data problems for all commuters.
Here’s hoping the change isn’t too jarring! I’ve got places to be.