Last night, I chatted with my friend Brian, who’s a grad student at the University of Washington in Seattle. He’s an avid bus user, so we had a good talk about buses. Public transportation takes a much different form in big cities like Seattle than in smaller towns like Bloomington, even if they take the same form (buses). More importantly, Brian reminded me of the project he’s been working on for about a year now.
Brian’s project, One Bus Away, lets you call a phone number (or check the website) to find out when your bus will get to your stop. That’s pretty cool, and especially useful in a city like Seattle, where buses can get backed up and there’s no way for you to know.
Even cooler to me is that you can ask One Bus Away to find businesses within a given distance by bus. For example, you might ask it for all of the coffee places less than 15 minutes away by bus, starting from where you are now. Brian told me that eventually, they’d like to set it up so that you can find apartments based on how close other things are by bus. It would be great to be able to find all apartments that are within 15 minutes of campus and a grocery store.
For now, One Bus Away only works in Seattle, but the Brian’s eventual goal is to create a system that any transit authority can use. Lots of municipal bus systems have terrible websites (Bloomington included). Once the OBA (One Bus Away) tools are complete, anyone will be able to set it up for their bus system. If it all works out well, that’ll encourage more people to use the bus by increasing the convenience.
Given the amount of positive press OBA has gotten recently, I’d say that he’s on to something. There’s a great article in the University of Washington newspaper as well as several local radio and TV interviews.
So if you’re in Seattle, give it a try (the number is 206-456-0609)! OBA is also open source, so if you’re inclined, you can download the code and improve it or install it locally.
Kudos to Brian for doing something to make buses more useful and enjoyable!