“White Label” versions of the OneBusAway apps

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 info@onebusaway.org, or check out the project on GitHub.

OneBusAway is currently available on the Apple App Store for iOS, Google Play for Android, as a skill on Amazon Alexa as well as on the web.

Standard OneBusAway app screenshot on the left, YRT on the right

OneBusAway in the News: Alexa, Destination Reminders

Over the winter break Metro Magazine and the local ABC news affiliate in Tampa picked up two stories related to the Alexa personalization features and destination reminders in OneBusAway, based on the work of Sean Barbeau and others at the Center for Urban Transportation Research at University of South Florida:

2020 Annual Meeting

We’ve had an annual meeting of the OneBusAway project for quite a few years, and we are happy to announce that starting this coming year it will become the annual meeting of the new Open Transit Software Foundation! It will be on January 12, 2020, in association with the annual TRB meeting in Washington DC. We will also have a facility for remote participation.

The agenda will include a report on the state of the new organization, the different production instances of OneBusAway, significant technical achievements in the last year, collaboration with other open transit software projects, a roadmap for future work, and election of the new Board for OTSF for 2020.

Please see the 2020 Annual Meeting page for more details. (That page will also be updated with more information as we pin down plans for the meeting.)

Spokane, Washington added as new OneBusAway region

Real-time and schedule data from Spokane Transit Authority (STA) is now available via OneBusAway, using the multi-region facility. The project to make STA’s data available was done by a group of Eastern Washington University students led by Rodney Thomas; after graduating, Rodney did an internship at STA to help ensure the criteria for adding STA as a production region were met and to document the installation. The server is now managed by STA and hosted on Amazon Web Services. Welcome Spokane!

Open Transit Software Foundation now a 501(c)(3)

Our application to the Internal Revenue Service to recognize the Open Transit Software Foundation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit has been approved! Contributions to OTSF are now tax-deductible; this will also help us in applying for various programs for nonprofit organizations. The OTSF website is set up as well.