Ten Years Later, OneBusAway Still Thrives

After ten years of existence, OneBusAway keeps on growing. At the Transportation Research Board conference in Washington DC earlier this month, OneBusAway joined forces with OpenTripPlanner to host its annual meeting. The open-source community got together to share the year’s accomplishments and discuss next steps.

This year, open-source developers have added new features into the app. Sean Barbeau from USF worked with Microsoft Research to add Embedded Social, a new social platform allowing users to make comments. Links to regional fare payment apps were added for Tampa, Puget Sound, and Sand Diego. HART worked with Cambridge Systematics to deploy a new service alerts platform developed in coordination with WMATA. Sean Crudden developed a new prediction method (part of TheTransitClock) based on machine learning to better forecast vehicle arrivals in unstable conditions such as passenger crowding, inclement weather, and congestion.

The mobile app is being deployed all over the world. New instances were implemented in Sroda Wielkopolska, Poland, Jackson County, Oregon, and more. San Diego MTS now runs OneBusAway on its website and as its native app. HART in Tampa, FL, integrated its streetcar service into the app.

Ten years after getting started by two Ph.D. students at University of Washington, OneBusAway is still powered by the open-source community. It thrives thanks to the academics, transit agencies, and developers who keep contributing.

Slides from the meeting are available online:

If you would like to get involved, don’t hesitate to reach out at info@onebusaway.org

Simon J. Berrebi

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OneBusAway annual meeting 13 Jan 2019, and invitation to learn more about open source

Are you newer to the open-source community, perhaps looking to learn more? As you can see on our website, there are benefits to transit agencies in the form of more control and less overall cost to provide riders tools. Open-source is also a community, where coders can invest their time to improve transit tools to make service better and more accessible for riders. Along with our duties of keeping OneBusAway running, many of us serve as advocates for better transit tools, promoters of open and standardized transit data, and researchers trying to understand the implications of rider tools. As part of this, we are trying to create a stronger community around all of these issues, especially open-source code in the transit world.

For this reason, we are teaming up with one of the other major partners in open-source tools, OpenTripPlanner to host a joint event at TRB. We’re meeting Sunday, January 13 from 11 am to 3 pm at the Marriott. We’ll also have a phone line if you aren’t attending TRB, but are interested in learning more. Contact Kari Watkins at kari.watkins@ce.gatech.edu if you’d like the call-in information.

Here is an Eventbrite invitation, including the agenda.

And if you are unable to attend either remotely or in person, but want to learn about open-source code and the benefits of it to agencies, contractors, and riders, please check out this link. It is from summer 2017 when one of our major contributors, Sean Crudden, and I did a webinar about the benefits of open-source code.

Chair, OneBusAway Board

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Agency Alerts and Other New Features for OneBusAway on iPhone

Aaron Brethorst, lead developer for the OneBusAway iPhone app, recently announced a major new release, OneBusAway 18.2, now available on the App Store. This release includes a set of important new features as well as numerous bug fixes.  Three of these new features are:

  1. The Map Table: an easy way for riders to see all of the transit stops around them.
  2. Agency Alerts: a simple way for transit agencies to share breaking news.
  3. Siri Shortcuts: a quick way to access most-used transit stops. Siri works with OneBusAway to learn the rider’s favorite transit stops so that it can automatically recommend them from the lock and search screens.

Of particular interest to transit agencies may be the Agency Alerts feature, which allow agencies to quickly publish short, region-wide alerts that are then shown directly inside the Map Table in the app.  This feature is currently available only on iOS, but we are planning on adding it to Android as well.  Agency Alerts are implemented in compliance with the standard GTFS-RT specification.  In addition, for agencies that don’t (yet?) publish region-wide GTFS-RT alerts, and for cases when the OneBusAway server in a region is down and that needs to be communicated to riders, we have also provided an alternate mechanism for publishing these alerts via alerts.onebusaway.org.

Example alert about significant delays in downtown Seattle due to road closures

Example Agency Alert

Please see Aaron’s blog post for a complete description of these new features.  As always, OneBusAway for iPhone is available for free from the App Store, and the source code is on the iPhone app section of our GitHub repository.

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System OBA reaches 17,000 users

Providing reliable real time information has been at the top of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s priority list for many years. MTS launched a very successful texting program with a unique short code 7 years ago. Now, with the full-featured OneBusAway apps, MTS is able to provide far more information and capabilities for its riders on their smartphones.

Converting people from texting (540,000 times per month on average) to OneBusAway over the last year has been a challenge. With more than 5,000 bus blades in the system pre-printed with texting info that would require a very labor intensive effort to replace, MTS took a strategic approach to convert texting users to OneBusAway. First, we identified the top 200 stops where texting was prevalent. New decals were made for those bus blades that replaced texting info with OneBusAway info instead. Also, every text sent to riders included a message about OneBusAway. Traditional advertisements and rider information guides were also put on every vehicle in addition to playing messages advertising the apps on our bus stop announcement system. Basically, anywhere we had space, we put an advertisement.

The effort was successful, reducing texting usage by about 1 million texts in the first year of OneBusAway activation. MTS also has built its active daily user base to 17,000 users across the iOS and Android apps. MTS will continue to educate our passengers on the great OneBusAway native apps where riders no longer have to know their bus stop number and text a number to get real time info.

OBA 17.4.0 Release!

Hello Riders,

This release took longer than expected, mostly because I kept adding stuff to it. But, I think it’s worth the wait! OneBusAway 17.4.0 adds alarms to tell you when your bus is a certain number of minutes away, a new search experience, and a huge amount of polish.

The newest features include:


  • See the direction you’re pointing in on the map
  • New search experience (Check it out, it’s way better!)
  • New icons
  • Toggle between standard map and hybrid satellite views
  • Quickly access nearby stops from the toolbar butons on the map

Regional Alerts

I want to give a huge thank you to Ben, who designed and built out the backend system that this new feature relies on. His expertise was invaluable in making this happen. <3

  • When a serious issue happens with the bus system, you’ll receive an alert as soon as you open the app that gives you more information about it. This way, you’ll never get caught off guard by salmon trucks or snow days again.
    • Please note: I am currently manually adding this data to the system, so early morning commuters might not get to take advantage of it. Just a head’s up.
      You can view more alerts from the Info tab. These are things like one-off cancellations of routes.


  • Set an alarm for a particular bus and get a push notification on your iPhone or Apple Watch when your bus is your specified number of minutes away.
    • View your active alarms on the ‘Recent’ tab


  • Tap on a ‘…’ button to access bookmarking, trip sharing, and alarms.
  • Move walking distance and time into the stops table so you can see exactly which buses you’ll be able to catch.

Trip Sharing

  • Better behavior on copying the URL
  • Trip sharing should work properly in Tampa again

Inter-app communication

  • onebusaway:// URLs will now launch OneBusAway


  • Fixes bug with bookmark name editing (Thanks, Alan!)
  • Sort bookmarks by proximity to your current location


  • Adds Handoff support for working with OBA across different devices

Other changes

A huge “thank you” to Edgar, who continues to volunteer his time to localize OneBusAway into Spanish.

  • Lots of behind-the-scenes upgrades to OBA, including model and networking layers.
  • Upgrade third party libraries (thanks for your help with this, Victor)


Additionally, in Puget Sound only for now, you’ll be able to get alerts about major failures in the bus system, like when an overturned fish truck snarls the evening commute! Hey transit agencies, feel free to get in touch with me about adding your data to this new system.