OneBusAway and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us and all areas of society. Public transit has been hit hard, with ridership way down, and many agencies moving to fare-free service. Bus drivers are on the front line. At the same time, transit remains a core essential service for many, including medical personnel who need to get to hospitals and clinics. 

Riders who still rely on transit need good information now more than ever. Unfortunately, it has been difficult for agencies to keep their GTFS schedule information up-to-date, with many service cuts, and sometimes drivers out sick and unable to work, resulting in canceled trips. The result has been that information shown in OneBusAway has not always been correct.

One important bit of progress here is that King County Metro in Washington State has recently implemented a transit alerts tool, which is allowing both route and trip level cuts to be reflected correctly in the OneBusAway real-time information, even though the trips are still in the GTFS schedule. The OneBusAway team is continuing to work on improving the accuracy of displayed information, including targeted and up-to-date service alerts.

In the meantime, here are pages for a number of our partner agencies that provide their most up-to-date information on current service reductions:

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!

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System OBA reaches 17,000 users

Providing reliable real time information has been at the top of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s priority list for many years. MTS launched a very successful texting program with a unique short code 7 years ago. Now, with the full-featured OneBusAway apps, MTS is able to provide far more information and capabilities for its riders on their smartphones.

Converting people from texting (540,000 times per month on average) to OneBusAway over the last year has been a challenge. With more than 5,000 bus blades in the system pre-printed with texting info that would require a very labor intensive effort to replace, MTS took a strategic approach to convert texting users to OneBusAway. First, we identified the top 200 stops where texting was prevalent. New decals were made for those bus blades that replaced texting info with OneBusAway info instead. Also, every text sent to riders included a message about OneBusAway. Traditional advertisements and rider information guides were also put on every vehicle in addition to playing messages advertising the apps on our bus stop announcement system. Basically, anywhere we had space, we put an advertisement.

The effort was successful, reducing texting usage by about 1 million texts in the first year of OneBusAway activation. MTS also has built its active daily user base to 17,000 users across the iOS and Android apps. MTS will continue to educate our passengers on the great OneBusAway native apps where riders no longer have to know their bus stop number and text a number to get real time info.