OneBusAway has been telling Seattle-area residents when their bus was arriving since 2006. Developed by University of Washington graduate student Brian Ferris, the application allowed customers use any kind of cell phone to dial, punch in the stop number, and receive an arrival prediction. Smartphone apps followed, and today OneBusAway logs 27,000 unique weekly visitors via iPhones, 18,000 from Androids, and another 18,000 from the web. Only about 2,000 weekly visitors still use the dial-in application. Brier Dudley describes the appeal of the app in The Seattle Times:
It’s a pure service, created simply to make life better for commuters of all stripes. It’s not trying to sell you anything, ping your friends, track your whereabouts, deduce your buying patterns or point you toward a nearby store. It just tells you when the next bus is coming, so you don’t have to stare down the road, wondering and hoping.
But now the future of the popular application is in doubt. Ferris will complete his Ph.D. studies in June and will leave the area to take a job with Google. The software giant’s gain is Seattle’s loss, as locals wonder who will keep OneBusAway going. This, of course, is one of the risks of depending on a community of volunteers to develop and maintain applications. “An extremely high priority is to make sure it keeps running — we need to figure it out,” said UW professor Alan Borning, who is trying to raise funds from transit agencies and other sources to hire a part-time developer. Link to full story in The Seattle Times.