Quality real-time transit information is critically important to transit riders. Many transit agencies recognize this and want to offer cutting-edge services to their transit riders. However, most transit agencies don’t have the expertise in-house to create and maintain mobile apps, and apps purchased or licensed through 3rd party vendors can be expensive or restrictive in terms (e.g., data collected from riders may be sold).
The OneBusAway open-source project, maintained by the non-profit Open Transit Software Foundation, is offering an innovative solution to this problem – a “white-labeling”, or re-branding, feature. “White-labeling” allows a transit agency to launch their own version of the open-source OneBusAway apps, complete with their own app store listing, colors, and logo, without modifying any code.
White-labeling is based on the OneBusAway multi-regions facility, which enables any agency to set up the open-source OneBusAway server software and launch the OneBusAway apps with the OneBusAway brand in their region. the After the server is set up, the existing OneBusAway Android and iPhone apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store will automatically show the new region as one of the choices. Several transit agencies, all members of the Open Transit Software Foundation, have set up OneBusAway servers, including Hillsborough Area Regional Transit in Tampa, FL, Sound Transit in the Puget Sound Region, WA, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System in San Diego CA, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in Washington DC, and York Region Transit (YRT) in Ontario, Canada.
However, in many transit agencies, the communications and customer service units have developed an agency logo, a look-and-feel for printed materials and the website, and other kinds of branding — and want the official apps for their agency to match. The “white label” facility for the OneBusAway Android app supports exactly that kind of customization by editing simple configuration files, without changing any software source code.
York Region Transit (YRT) in Ontario, Canada is the first transit agency world-wide to launch their own branded app based on the white label feature for OneBusAway Android. Valerian Eftime, Program Manager at YRT quotes: “YRT has used OneBusAway (OBA) to provide schedule and real-time information to our riders since 2013. Our Marketing and Customer Service groups requested that the Android and iOS apps use the same branding and colours as the agency’s official website and to be promoted under the “YRT” name in the app stores. We were able to deploy and configure our dedicated environment for OBA APIs, and we successfully forked the OBA mobile apps projects and customized them to our requirements. This worked well for a few years, while we also developed and deployed the first trip planner feature, which was shared with the OBA development community. Unfortunately, the extra development we implemented was difficult to be merged within the main OBA project and made the maintenance more difficult and costly. We took the decision to transition to the white label version of the Android app in 2019 and as a result, our branded YRT app is always enhanced with the most recent features and bug fixes! We are enthusiastically waiting for the white label feature enhancement of the iOS OBA app, which once implemented will most certainly improve YRT customer experience.”
White-labeling is currently available on OneBusAway Android and is planned to be available for beta testing on iOS in the first quarter of 2020. Any agencies interested in launching OneBusAway in their region can reach out to the OneBusAway project developers on the OneBusAway Google Group or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out the project on GitHub.