Researchers develop a sweet application

Researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University have developed a free iPhone application that predicts arrival times for Port Authority of Allegheny County (PA) buses and light rail vehicles. Because the Port Authority does not track its vehicles in real time, the application relies on community input for its predictions. Called Tiramisu (Italian for “pick me up” — and also a yummy dessert), the app uses crowdsourcing to develop arrival predictions for buses and trains. Here’s how it works:

When a rider first activates the app, Tiramisu displays the nearest stops and a list of buses or light rail vehicles that are scheduled to arrive. The list includes arrival times, based either on historical data for that route or on real-time reports from riders. When the desired vehicle arrives, the user indicates the level of “fullness” and then presses a button, allowing their phone to share an ongoing GPS trace with the Tiramisu server. Once aboard, the rider can use Tiramisu to find out which stop is next and to report problems, positive experiences and suggestions.

“While better funded transit systems, such as those in Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco, can afford to make GPS-based information available to riders in real-time, the Allegheny County system is under tremendous budget pressure,” said CMU’s Aaron Steinfeld in a statement. “Under such circumstances, a free, crowdsourced system such as Tiramisu offers an important alternative.” The “fullness” feature is especially valuable to people with disabilities who can learn whether the bus has enough room to easily accommodate a wheelchair. Link to full story in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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