A Bus Too Far

It's inspiring to hear that the creator of One Bus Away will be moving on to new challenges and a bigger canvas.

One Bus Away is a set of smartphone apps and other tools that let people in King County, Washington, know where and when to head for the next bus. I've blogged about it before and the iPhone app has been one of my favorites. I probably would not use the bus at all, were it not for One Bus Away.

5354178823_54c0b9e732_bIf I'm not mistaken, it plots the arrival times of your bus by referencing the odometer reading of the given bus at the start of its route. That is, unlike programs for other municipal bus systems, it does not use GPS to track buses. But it works reliably -- in my experience, buses arrive within plus or minus one minute of the time estimated (and it can be frustrating when the bus arrives and leaves a minute early!).

In any case, the approach works and it improves quality of life in Seattle.

The project's creator, Brian Ferris, wrote this yesterday on the One Bus Away blog, about where he is going next:

"I'm going to work for Google. Specifically, the Google Transit team [in Zurich]. 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?"

Congrats to Mr. Ferris, congrats to Google for nabbing such a leader, power to the people and may more and more information help break America's dependence on oil.

Photo: Portrait of Chico Alvarez and June Christy, 1947 or 1948, by William P. Gottlieb.

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