I’m very excited to announce that after over two years of development, the latest version of OneBusAway for iOS is ready for public beta testing! If you want to dive right in and try out the new app, please visit https://testflight.apple.com/join/RuhKdd1M.
This new version of OneBusAway is built on top of an open source reusable code library called OBAKit (https://github.com/onebusaway/obakit), which offers some awesome new capabilities over what the current shipping version of OneBusAway can do.
Here’s what’s new:
Software developers can plug OBAKit into their own apps in order to power real-time transit experiences without having to do any extra work.
Transit agencies can easily create their own custom-branded versions of OneBusAway for iOS, complete with a unique color scheme, name, and logo.
The OBAKit source code is written in Apple’s Swift programming language, and it is designed to be easily understood and fun to work on.
Try out the public beta:
Please note that this version of the app might be a little buggier than you’re used to. We’ve taken great pains to ensure it works right, but we can’t guarantee we’ve found everything. If you want to try out the public beta, please visit:
We’re always looking for developers who want to pitch in on making the best open source real-time transit app even better. You can find a list of tasks that need work here: https://github.com/OneBusAway/OBAKit/issues
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.
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:
Agency Alerts and Other New Features for OneBusAway on iPhone
Aaron Brethorst, lead developer for the OneBusAway iPhone app, recently announced a major new release, OneBusAway 18.2, now available on the App Store. This release includes a set of important new features as well as numerous bug fixes. Three of these new features are:
The Map Table: an easy way for riders to see all of the transit stops around them.
Agency Alerts: a simple way for transit agencies to share breaking news.
Siri Shortcuts: a quick way to access most-used transit stops. Siri works with OneBusAway to learn the rider’s favorite transit stops so that it can automatically recommend them from the lock and search screens.
Of particular interest to transit agencies may be the Agency Alerts feature, which allow agencies to quickly publish short, region-wide alerts that are then shown directly inside the Map Table in the app. This feature is currently available only on iOS, but we are planning on adding it to Android as well. Agency Alerts are implemented in compliance with the standard GTFS-RT specification. In addition, for agencies that don’t (yet?) publish region-wide GTFS-RT alerts, and for cases when the OneBusAway server in a region is down and that needs to be communicated to riders, we have also provided an alternate mechanism for publishing these alerts via alerts.onebusaway.org.
This release took longer than expected, mostly because I kept adding stuff to it. But, I think it’s worth the wait! OneBusAway 17.4.0 adds alarms to tell you when your bus is a certain number of minutes away, a new search experience, and a huge amount of polish.
The newest features include:
See the direction you’re pointing in on the map
New search experience (Check it out, it’s way better!)
Toggle between standard map and hybrid satellite views
Quickly access nearby stops from the toolbar butons on the map
I want to give a huge thank you to Ben, who designed and built out the backend system that this new feature relies on. His expertise was invaluable in making this happen. <3
When a serious issue happens with the bus system, you’ll receive an alert as soon as you open the app that gives you more information about it. This way, you’ll never get caught off guard by salmon trucks or snow days again.
Please note: I am currently manually adding this data to the system, so early morning commuters might not get to take advantage of it. Just a head’s up.
You can view more alerts from the Info tab. These are things like one-off cancellations of routes.
Set an alarm for a particular bus and get a push notification on your iPhone or Apple Watch when your bus is your specified number of minutes away.
View your active alarms on the ‘Recent’ tab
Tap on a ‘…’ button to access bookmarking, trip sharing, and alarms.
Move walking distance and time into the stops table so you can see exactly which buses you’ll be able to catch.
Better behavior on copying the URL
Trip sharing should work properly in Tampa again
onebusaway:// URLs will now launch OneBusAway
Fixes bug with bookmark name editing (Thanks, Alan!)
Sort bookmarks by proximity to your current location
Adds Handoff support for working with OBA across different devices
A huge “thank you” to Edgar, who continues to volunteer his time to localize OneBusAway into Spanish.
Lots of behind-the-scenes upgrades to OBA, including model and networking layers.
Upgrade third party libraries (thanks for your help with this, Victor)
Additionally, in Puget Sound only for now, you’ll be able to get alerts about major failures in the bus system, like when an overturned fish truck snarls the evening commute! Hey transit agencies, feel free to get in touch with me about adding your data to this new system.