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.
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
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.
- Better behavior on copying the URL
- Trip sharing should work properly in Tampa again
- 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
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.
For the past few years, OneBusAway has been slowly growing behind the scenes, adding new cities from San Diego to Washington DC. The little Seattle app started by two PhD students at the University of Washington in 2008 has grown up to be one of the most successful open source coding projects and a source of real-time transit arrival information for hundreds of thousands of users. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished the last few years, especially considering we’ve done it largely on volunteer efforts and transit agencies commitment to open source and open data.
Each year in January, we hold a yearly board meeting to elect new board members and bring in new project members. We also give updates about each OneBusAway region and the various apps and platforms. At this year’s meeting, it became clear that a lot is going on within our project, but one thing we could improve is communicating the great stuff that is happening to our users and interested parties (transit agencies, consultants, etc.).
Therefore, we are starting this new blog to let you all know what we are up to. We’ll periodically include posts about deployments in the various cities, new efforts with apps and new platforms, and other goings-ons with the group. We hope you enjoy reading about the project and how we are evolving. Remember that if you have ideas for us, you can always email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a software developer interested in helping out with the project, you can find us on Slack (sign up at https://onebusaway.herokuapp.com/) or the OneBusAway Developers Google Group (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/onebusaway-developers). More details on the open-source project are at https://github.com/OneBusAway/onebusaway-application-modules/wiki
Chair of the OneBusAway Board