When Will OneBusAway Upgrade to On-Board GPS Data?
Brier Dudley has a post about the futures of OneBusAway and its creator, Brian Ferris (h/t to Sound Transit’s indefatigable Andrew Schmid). As Ferris mentioned on his blog, he’s been hired temporarily by King County Metro Transit, and the project is an exciting one for anyone who’s been waiting for real-time bus tracking information.
Specifically, Ferris will be working on a SIRI repeater. SIRI stands for service interface for real time information, which is an “XML protocol to allow distributed computers to exchange real-time information about public transport services and vehicles”…
That will be ready before Metro finishes its upgrade to a new on-board system that offers GPS data, says King County’s Linda Thielke: “Installation on all the individual buses (1,200+) is well underway now, but we estimate it will be late in 2012 when we have all the fleet outfitted with the new OnBoard Systems gear, including GPS.”
I asked if Metro’s budget constraints had slowed the upgrade, but Thielke says no. It’s just that the “smart bus” upgrade goes far beyond GPS and even, separately, the installation of new bus radios.
There’s new on-board signage that will announce bus stops automatically, bus route number information transmitted to bus stops as the bus arrives, bus performance tracking that will flag buses for maintenance before they break down en route, passenger counting, and a traffic priority system that gives buses the green light when they’re running late.
It’s taking an estimated 32 person hours to “smarten” each bus, says Thielke, which, multiplied by over 1,200 is…more than 38,400 hours, or 1,600 days.
That said, you can experience the new system now, in all its glory, by taking a Rapid Ride A Line trip.
Some of you may have thought, from OneBusAway‘s precision–outside of accidents and snow events–that GPS was already here. But that data has been provided by Metro’s AVL system, which requires the buses to pass stations that broadcast location signals. When buses are rerouted, they may or may not pass that transmitter, and the results become unreliable at the precise time when people want accurate bus arrival information most.
Meanwhile, Brier says, “transit officials are talking to the UW about ways they can keep the OneBusAway apps and services operating after Ferris leaves.” When that happens, transit riders can discard a more radical Plan B, which is to duct tape 1,200 iPhones to the undercarriages of Metro’s fleet, and hack AT&T or Apple’s network to determine GPS locations.