New Trip-Planning App WhichBus Reaches Private Beta
If you take the bus in Seattle with any frequency, there’s a good chance you use OneBusAway, the app that tells you when the next few buses are coming to your stop, using real-time data. More than 100,000 people have downloaded the app to their mobile devices, and have come to rely on it unreservedly.
WhichBus is the newest entry, and has just announced its private “beta”–the developers are accepting sign-ups from the more venturesome who won’t mind discovering how many bugs and data gaps are in the system still. (SPOILER: Plenty.)
WhichBus approaches the Seattle bus dilemma from a different direction than OBA, which assumes that you know where you are and where you’re going. (You can search out these particulars using OBA, but it’s not as easy as it could be.) WhichBus uses King County Metro‘s real-time data to help you solve how to get from A to B.
In fact, Metro already offers online trip planning, but as you can see if you visit their site, the UI is not anything as streamlined as WhichBus. On your smart phone, pressing the WhichBus location icon maps your present GPS coordinates, so you don’t even have to figure out the nearest intersection. It looks like locations can be as specific as street addresses or as general as neighborhood name.
Helpfully, the results are mapped out to show you the route the bus will take (you can choose from among itineraries), along with the walking route to the bus stop in question, if you’re not already at one. The walking route displays in a different color than the bus route, so you can estimate whether it’s worth it to catch that bus or aim for something closer. On the arrival end, the same thing: a walking route from the bus stop to your destination.
Both of these apps are essential for navigating King County Metro, and further separate the smart-phone-enabled from the hoi polloi who must try to figure out bus information from Metro. If you’re at a computer, it’s possible to visit Metro’s site and get the information you need, but if you’re out and about, the physical footprint of Metro’s expansive system (one of the largest in North America) has long made it impossible for Metro to keep comprehensive route information available at bus stops. Add in several years of budget slashing, and the schedules at far-flung bus stops are often out-of-date or missing.