[00:00:00] Announcer: The following research is part of the National Institute for Congestion Reduction funded by the United States Department of Transportation through the University Transportation Center program. Learn more at www.nicr.usf.edu.
[00:00:27] Wayne Garcia: Welcome to Out of My Lane, a podcast of the Center for Urban Transportation Research or CUTR at the University of South Florida in Tampa. I'm Wayne Garcia, your host. I'm with Dr. Kari Watkins and Dr. Sean Barbeau who have worked together under various research studies dealing with transportation software, and we're gonna talk today about one of those pieces of software.
[00:00:52] Wayne Garcia: Get to that in just a second. Dr. Watkins is the Frederick Law Olmstead Associate Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. You may know it better as Georgia Tech, but by the time we put this podcast up and running, she will be an associate professor at the University of California, Davis. And uh, Dr. Barbeau is the Principal Mobile Software Architect for Research and Development in CUTR at USF. Welcome to both of you.
[00:01:26] Kari Watkins: Thank you.
[00:01:27] Sean Barbeau: Thanks Wayne. Thanks for having us.
[00:01:29] Wayne Garcia: It's, uh, great to have you. In this episode we want to look at OneBusAway. That's all one word for people keeping track at home, transcribing by hand the podcast. A platform that enables transit agencies to provide real time vehicle, locations, alerts, and arrival information to riders and we talk about how it has shaped our transportation today, and we sort of take a lot of these things for, for granted today that didn't exist 10 years ago that let us know sort of what's going on in our transportation daily, uh, battle. Trying to get from where we are to where we want to be. But before we start talking about OneBusAway, if you're a listener of the podcast or if you're not, we like to start off with a little segment that's called What's Your Commute Like? Sean has already told us on a previous episode, so we're gonna ask Kari. Kari and I can only imagine, being familiar with Atlanta and its traffic, what is your commute like?
[00:02:36] Kari Watkins: Most of the time, Wayne, I am a bike commuter and I am not, for those who pay attention to bicycling world lingo and such, I am definitely not a strong and fearless cyclist. I'm a pretty timid cyclist, but despite that, we have purchased a home 11 years ago when we moved here in a location where I would have a pretty desirable bike commute. So I commute from a neighborhood called Virginia Highlands and I go through Piedmont Park, which is our large park in Atlanta, absolutely beautiful area. And then through Midtown on bike lanes and across Georgia Tech's campus to my office. It's a little over three miles, takes me about 20 minutes with traffic lights each direction. And, uh, and it's a pretty beautiful bike commute. So I'm, I'm pretty lucky that I get good exercise on my way to work every day, and it goes through a peaceful place like a park. So I have a pretty idyllic, uh, bike commute. Once in a while, I'm a transit commuter too, speaking of OneBusAway, but, uh, but my preference is actually my bike.
[00:03:40] Wayne Garcia: Oh, that's excellent. And are you gonna be able to keep up the bike streak in California?
[00:03:45] Kari Watkins: So, the great thing about the University of California Davis is that Davis, California is the most bikeable, mid-sized city in the United States. It's a big part of our move out there is, if anything, I will actually have an easier bike commute once I get there and hopefully be able to bike to even more things than work without being afraid of braving the roads.
[00:04:07] Wayne Garcia: That sounds fantastic. What a great move for you and congratulations on getting the position out there.
[00:04:13] Kari Watkins: Thank you.
[00:04:13] Wayne Garcia: OneBusAway for those not familiar with it, a platform and an app that people can use and it's in various different cities, transit systems will use it, to let you know that when the bus is gonna arrive, which sounds like a really simple idea. Kari and another, uh, graduate school colleague came up with this when she was in grad school.
[00:04:37] Kari Watkins: Mm-hmm.
[00:04:38] Wayne Garcia: out in the Pacific Northwest or did you think of it in, in Connecticut.
[00:04:42] Kari Watkins: This was when was the University of Washington and the fellow uh, instigator behind all of this, Brian Ferris now works, I hope I can say this on a podcast, for Google in their location services.
[00:04:57] Kari Watkins: And, uh, so he does like navigation things for Google, which you could see two people who in invented an app like this might have those kinds of interests. But Brian was in computer science. He is person who writes excellent code like Sean and the two of us, uh, work together to pull these feeds in from different transit agencies and such.
[00:05:18] Kari Watkins: At a time when Androids did not exist at all, iPhones were brand spankin new like this was, This was a pretty new thing way before other apps, like the Transit App and some of the ones that exist today were even thought of. We were developing OneBusAway to give this kind of information out to riders.
[00:05:37] Wayne Garcia: And how'd you come up with the idea? Where did this come out of?
[00:05:40] Kari Watkins: So it actually started because at the University of Washington, they had a feed of this data and there was a gentleman who had worked on creating a website that would enable people if they were on a computer that they could look and see.
[00:05:54] Kari Watkins: But there was no mobile version of that, no easily usable mobile version. I had worked project through one of my courses. Brian and I were both PhD students at the time. I was in civil and environmental engineering, he was in computer science and I had worked on a project that I called OneBusAway because it was more about trip planning.
[00:06:14] Kari Watkins: So what can I get to only taking one bus, not having to transfer. And this was because I had two little girls and they were both in a stroller and it was a pain to have to switch buses. And I wanted to know if I wanted take them to park, or we wanted to go get, you know, dinner at a Thai restaurant or whatever we wanted to do, how could I easily get there using the transit system in Seattle? Lucky for me, I met Brian and he said, 'This is a great idea, but your code is horrible and I can make this actually a lot more usable if you let me at it.' And I was smart enough to take a step back and let him do so. And so that was the first OneBusAway project. And then from there we had this feed of data from the agencies, well from King County Metro, so the largest agency in the area in Seattle, that gave us these arrivals, but it gave it only at certain time points.
[00:07:04] Kari Watkins: And we thought this is not as useful as having it at the individual stop levels. So somebody could actually look and see, 'Okay I'm standing at this. When is the bus actually gonna come to me?' And so Brian used this feed. We pulled in more feeds from additional transit agencies. We work with the transit agency to try to improve the interface.
[00:07:24] Kari Watkins: All of these kinds of things. We did studies, a lot of my dissertation was studies of 'Does it actually impact ridership? Does it actually impact people's wait time? Does it impact how satisfied they are with transit?' And that was what made up both of our dissertations like 15 years ago now.
[00:07:44] Wayne Garcia: Wow. And before we get to sort of what, what we found about the usage and bus riding from this app, explain to the listeners how it works and I, I assume most people don't really think about, but buses have GPS locators on them. Even back before we all carried our own GPS locator in our phone,
[00:08:07] Kari Watkins: Actually, in the earliest days, they didn't have GPS locators. There's actually different systems where there would be a device on the bus and sign posts on the side of the road, and they would communicate to say, 'This bus is here now.' That kind of thing that caused all kinds of problems in Seattle when our buses would rero because of a winter storm or things like that. GPS is much better. So, So we've had different systems that have evolved through the years. But yes, at this point in these larger systems like Seattle, like in Tampa, like in Atlanta, where I am, the entire fleet is equipped with GPS on the bus, and so we have a location of where that bus is, at least periodically. We don't necessarily know at all times because that data may not be sent all the time, but in most systems, at least once a minute, we know where that bus is, and so then we're basically taking that data and Sean can tell you better than I can, but we're taking that data and and processing it so that we can tell the rider, 'If you're located at this stop, this is when we think that bus is gonna get to you based on the location where it is right now.'
[00:09:13] Wayne Garcia: So there's a predictive element to it as well. It's not like you're looking at yourself on some of our travel apps where like, 'Oh, I see myself driving up the highway. Were the bus systems back 15 years ago, were they tracking buses for the benefit of the riders? I mean, ultimately, yes, but I, I would also assume for breakdowns, for route problems, for, you know, all kinds of things and that the, what you've developed was sort of not what they were originally looking to do.
[00:09:43] Kari Watkins: Yeah, a lot of these systems were initially intended for the people working for the agency, and that was, you know, in the early days when Brian and I first did this and eventually we have to get to the part of the story where Sean gets involved. That's a great part of the story too. But basically they weren't providing this information to riders any, any in any way. When we did this 15 years ago, and that's what we were trying to do is fill that gap. You've got this information for internal agency purposes, you're keeping track of it. Why not tell people because they wanna have this information. And so that's kind of what was cutting edge at the time is, you know, it wasn't the fact that we were tracking the buses. We'd actually been doing that for a while and those systems were advancing on their own. So that the agency knew the innovative thing was how do we get this out to people and how do we get it out in a really, really usable format?
[00:10:35] Sean Barbeau: And I, I think that's actually a really good segue to, to where I got involved with the project, which was...
[00:10:40] Wayne Garcia: Yeah, that's where I was going. That's where I'm going. Sean gets involved at some point.
[00:10:44] Sean Barbeau: Yeah, yeah. So my background's computer science, and we were involved in a number of different mobile app related projects.
[00:10:50] Sean Barbeau: And my, my expertise is, is along the lines of location and using GPS and phones and we started thinking they think along the same lines of what Brian and Kari had been thinking of, you know, wouldn't it great if people are, are starting to get these smartphones and wouldn't it be great if you could see information on your phone and we want this here in Tampa.
[00:11:08] Sean Barbeau: And uh, and we, we started looking around and, and we found what, what Kari and Brian were working on. We found OneBusAway and we were thinking then, 'Well, instead of reinventing the wheel and like writing our own app and doing that, like wouldn't it be great if we could just kind of take what was there?
[00:11:24] Sean Barbeau: Take OneBusAway that already exists and deployed in Tampa and started looking at Tampa's real time information and lo and behold, it was the exact scenario that we're talking about here. So they had in a vehicle tracking system that was used for internal operations, but that information had never been shared to general public before. So we started working with HART, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit here in Hillsborough County and worked with them to get their data into a, a standardized format that's now used by most transit agencies that are sharing their data with OneBusAway, Google Maps or Apple Maps, any of these other apps or the General Transit Feed Specification or GTFS and that was a learning process for us.
[00:12:04] Sean Barbeau: And I think, uh, an important part that OneBusAway has played as well is helping everyone understand like how can we not only create these systems but create them in a standardized way that enables us to like easily replicate them? And we've seen the growth in OneBusAway, for example. Now because it uses these data standards, it's been launched in New York City and Washington DC and San Diego. And similarly, apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps have been able to scale up as well.
[00:12:31] Wayne Garcia: So now it's in Seattle and you get it here to Tampa. How, how does it find its way out to now all these other systems that are using it? Obviously, the, somehow it, it became part of a nonprofit company that uh, y'all or someone found it.
[00:12:49] Sean Barbeau: Yeah. Kari, do you wanna cover the, kind of, the creation of OTFS?
[00:12:53] Kari Watkins: Sure. What, Basically what happened was, as Sean explained, he created this ability for us to be able on the back end for the app itself, to connect to whatever the local instance was. And so then he was able to reproduce everything in Tampa that we were doing.
[00:13:11] Kari Watkins: But it also enabled it, like he said, that any of these different cities could actually make use of everything that we had created. And so as long as their data was standardized in the way that Sean's talking about, a couple of the initial agencies that took advantage of this, were working with different consulting firms.
[00:13:28] Kari Watkins: We made all of the code open source so that even if an agency wanted to come on board without working through a different firm, if they had people internal to the agency who had enough know how to get their own instance, you know, where they're sending this feed of the GTFS, real time out, then they could come on board as well.
[00:13:50] Kari Watkins: And so we've had agencies that have done it both ways. And we did this for a while, and what we eventually realized was that a big barrier to a lot of other agencies coming on board was that we didn't actually exist as an entity. The very cool thing about Open Source Code is you can easily create this community of people who are all working together on one project, but they're all working officially for each of their individual organizations.
[00:14:19] Kari Watkins: So, so OneBusAway really only existed under the umbrella of the University of Washington. Brian was no longer there. I was no longer there. And Alan Boarding the, our advisor on the project was preparing to retire. So like it had to have an entity, right? It had to exist somewhere other than the cloud.
[00:14:39] Kari Watkins: And so that was part of the catalyst for the Open Transit Software Foundation was we wanted to create a nonprofit organization that would sort of be the house, the the home of OneBusAway and any other software tools that were similar that might need this kind of home. And so it's been a couple of years since we've done that now, but we created OTFS to have a board and to have sort of a charter and to be able to receive funds and all of those things that we had to be able to do to push OneBusAway and other similar open source coded transit projects to the next level of being accepted by a lot of these transit agencies who need to contract with something in order to to do this.
[00:15:26] Wayne Garcia: How has it been received by these transit agencies? How widely has it bred and and what kind of feedback do you get from them?
[00:15:34] Sean Barbeau: It's been really interesting to see the journey. There's definitely a large number of agencies that have invested heavily into deploying OneBusAway, and I think the largest of those is NTA in in New York City, which it runs maybe actually Washington DC WMATA might also be a a, a close runner up, but they've basically invested and, and their entire bus information system is all running basically on, on OneBusAway.
[00:16:00] Sean Barbeau: So it's all powered by the open source software. So we've seen other international deployments also between Buena Aires and Argentina. Their government decided that they wanted to be able to provide their citizens with access to real time information and found OneBusAway on the internet and and rolled it out.
[00:16:16] Sean Barbeau: So then I think something that's been very important to agencies and then also the users as well. It's, it's, you realize how important this is to riders when things start going wrong and not working well, which occasionally they do, just like in any information system, and the riders tell you pretty quickly, this is something very important they rely on to, you know, every day as part of their journey to to work and elsewhere.
[00:16:41] Sean Barbeau: Yeah, overall I think we've found that the folks that that have experienced it, I think have found value in it.
[00:16:46] Kari Watkins: Wayne, we probably should interject at this point. When we say riders I think it's important to, on the scope of what we're actually talking about. So when Brian and I started this, the reason it was great that Sean sort of came to our rescue and kept helped me keep the project going was because in Seattle we already had 50,000 unique weekly riders, right? So this was two PhD students and, and we were, you know, accidentally serving 50,000 people in the greater Seattle Metro Area. Sean, I think you have estimates nowadays, like at least pre pandemic, what were we up to through all the instances?
[00:17:25] Sean Barbeau: So, yeah, I think just the Android and, and uh, iOS apps and the iPhone apps. I think we were up to like 350,000, like daily active users. Some somewhere in that range. So it was, you know, a good chunk of people and that doesn't include people using kind of the websites that are,
um, in the local areas ...
[00:17:44] Kari Watkins: and then several of the instances aren't using the app, so New York City is not.
[00:17:48] Sean Barbeau: And, and that also doesn't include any of the, the users like in Argentina for example, or York, uh, Regional Transit also deployed in, in Canada because they, we have a way set up where, agencies, if they decide to put their own brand on the app, they can actually just take the app and reskin it effectively and you know, put their own logo and colors, but then depend on the same underlying open source software so they're not reinventing the wheel. They're able to to work with us and. And all, so we're all on the same page, all kind of contributing to the same, the same application.
[00:18:22] Wayne Garcia: And you touched on where I was gonna go with my next question, which is, you know, how can people get their hands on this? And it sounds like there, there's some agencies are using that app, some agencies are building it into their, their own apps, I would assume. So how, how can someone, if they're in a city somewhere, sort of find out if this is available for them?
[00:18:41] Sean Barbeau: So I think that the simplest way is if you have an an Android phone or an iPhone, you can just search for the one OneBusAway on your app store and then the app listing, it'll show like which cities are available for you and if you happen to be in one of the cities where it's not available, I think, you know, reaching out to your local transit agency and expressing interest in this or the other two places that we've seen it start frequently is either the transit agency or like the local university, which is how in in Seattle and then also here in Tampa.
[00:19:09] Sean Barbeau: I think that Spokane I think was another example of that, if I remember right. In, in Washington. So I, I think trying to connect with, with some of those folks and sharing. So OneBusAway.org is the website and there's an transit software foundation.org website as well. And just sharing this with them and kind of showing that this is available is, I think the best place that your typical transit rider can start.
[00:19:32] Wayne Garcia: And, uh, we'll make sure we have links to that. If you're listening and you really are interested in, uh, getting a hold of this and seeing if your city transit system or regional transit system is involved with it, we'll have it on the podcast's webpage. The benefit to the rider, obviously, is that sitting at the bus stop and not knowing that like, it's better, like if you know, 'Oh, it's five minutes,' but if you don't know, you start to drive your insane. It's, it's our way as, as Americans, but there's another side of this software and collecting this data and, and that is that now you can tell a lot more information about these bus riders and do research on that. So let's pivot and talk a little bit about that. What have we learned in the 15 years about bus riders that this data has helped us really understand and make things better? Kari, you wanna start on that?
[00:20:29] Kari Watkins: Yeah, I was gonna say, let me start with some of the earlier studies and then Sean can go into some of the cool stuff that we're doing now. In the first days when I was doing my dissertation, we were really just interested in people's satisfaction, right? Did it, did it make them more satisfied riders if they had this kind of information?
[00:20:47] Kari Watkins: From there, we started going into 'does it change how long they think they're waiting?' Because there's this amazing phenomenon, not just in transportation, right? You're waiting at the doctor's office. There's a reason why there are fish in your dentist office. It's because it entertains you enough that you don't feel like you're waiting as long because we tend to think we're waiting twice as long as we actually are.
[00:21:11] Kari Watkins: And this is pretty consistent across most waiting experiences. So the great thing is we give you real time information so that you know when the bus is actually coming. And you perceive that your wait is the same as how long you're actually standing there, and so this doesn't make it so that transit has this inherent disadvantage compared to other modes anymore.
[00:21:32] Kari Watkins: From there, we went into ridership studies, so my first PhD student at Georgia Tech, Candace Blakewood and I at in partnership with Sean when he was launching in Tampa, when we launched OneBusAway in Atlanta for a while. And then we did a study in New York City. We looked at, okay, does it actually entice more people to ride transit who weren't previously riding?
[00:21:56] Kari Watkins: And what we found was in the larger cities on, you know, in the places where there was really, really good underlying transit service, more people rode when they had this kind of information. In smaller cities, when you didn't have really great information, it wasn't enough. Right? You still have to have that good transit back backbone.
[00:22:16] Kari Watkins: Like giving you the information about bad transit is not gonna entice you to take it, right? Yeah, giving you good information about good transit, that's exactly what you need, right? And that's gonna get people who maybe have a choice of some other mode. It's gonna help them be willing to, to choose transit. So those were some of the, the early studies that we were doing on trying to see what kind of difference does it make? Does it actually improve the transportation system? And I'll pass the torch to Sean to talk about some of the cool location stuff that we're doing now.
[00:22:47] Wayne Garcia: There's no dressing up the pig, huh?
[00:22:51] Sean Barbeau: Yeah, thanks Kari. And I, I should point out too that I, that all of that research that, that Kari was doing kind of in the early days and then the stuff that we collaborated on, but especially like in the early days, just, you know, showing and demonstrating and, and via, you know, objective research that people think they're waiting longer than they actually are.
[00:23:08] Sean Barbeau: And when you give them the information, they think they're waiting less,
um, you know, than they would otherwise if they didn't have access to it. That type of of research was critical for us in Tampa to be able to convince the transit management that, you know, real time information is something that people they wanted.
[00:23:25] Sean Barbeau: But then, you know, there's also demonstrateable advantages to it and that I think research was, was key for us and others to be able to convince transit. To deploy these, these real time systems. And then, like Kari said here in Tampa, we worked together to, I think do one of the few, maybe the only controlled studies that, that I know of, uh, where we gave like the one group access to real time and the other that didn't.
[00:23:48] Sean Barbeau: Uh, and the only reason we were able to do that is because we had control over the software and the ability to deploy the system. So OneBusAway started a pretty critical role in, in that. We've done some, Yeah. Some interesting things we've been able to look at too, and I should note that one of the other really important things I think that came out of us deploying OneBusAway in Tampa was understanding a much, a much better understanding of the GTFS realtime standard.
[00:24:11] Sean Barbeau: And then that led us to then when we were troubleshooting data, creating a GTFS realtime validation tool, which is also open source software. And kind of fast forward today, that tools actually been deployed by like the entire state of California and the entire country of France. And we're hoping to see others come on board too.
[00:24:29] Sean Barbeau: So there's this kind of magnifying effect. I think also that like the work that we're doing in the kind of in the OneBusAway is almost a microcosm of, you know, all the issues that all of these apps are facing. So we're hoping that that type of, of validation tool then, for example, Kari was saying, you know, you want good real time and for, and good real time information, not just any, any real time information.
[00:24:51] Sean Barbeau: So hopefully that helps some of the other things that we're working on now and, and actually the, under the National Institute of Congestion Reduction funded a study and we, we were just wrapped up kind of the first phase of this and we're just starting a second phase. And this is giving people the option to opt in to contribute their own travel behavior information that is passively collected so the user doesn't have to do anything.
[00:25:15] Sean Barbeau: And then we get information about when they transition between activities like riding a bike, walking or walking to being in a vehicle and, uh, and location information about that too. So we're hoping this then coming back to working with, with Terry and some other colleagues. That help us understand things like, you know, why people make certain choices of, of choosing a particular mode.
[00:25:35] Sean Barbeau: We also can capture what the person sees in the app before they make these these transitions, terms of traveling somewhere. So hopefully that'll help us have more kind of empirical data. And I don't know, Karii, if you want to talk about kind of the potential uses of some of that information.
[00:25:51] Kari Watkins: Yeah, I mean these are the ways that we can understand, like over time, if we see certain improvements to the transit system put in place, we can see like if there's additional trip making. If people choose different routes, like having this kind of consistent data on where it is that you're traveling at various times, it enables us to understand better. What is it that triggers people to make changes to that. You know, how variable is this over time, as people are sort of, do people do the same commute every day or different days, and all of this can feed into transit agencies making decisions around how they provide service and things like that.
[00:26:32] Kari Watkins: So there's a ton of uses. We can get into some of the difficulties of it. That's why we use an opt-in system is that OneBusAway is pretty protective of our user's privacy. One of the policies that we've had since day one. And so we wanna make sure people have a pretty good understanding of how their data are being used, and we want them to be able to say if they want their data to be going to additional research studies or not.
[00:26:57] Kari Watkins: That's part of the difficulty is we don't have a full sample for these things. Some others may not have such robust privacy policies who are out there. But as an open source and research based project, it's really important to us that we're careful with how we treat our users.
[00:27:16] Wayne Garcia: Yeah, I was gonna say, uh, that would be the one downside I can really see is the people's fear that, you know, somebody somewhere knows where I'm going all the time.
Um, which I hate to tell you, but yeah... Most
[00:27:28] Kari Watkins: ...they know anyway.
[00:27:30] Wayne Garcia: They, we, we already know. Or the, maybe the wrong people already know.
[00:27:33] Kari Watkins: Exactly. The ones who aren't telling you that they're tracking this, this is the ones you
[00:27:37] Wayne Garcia: Exactly, yes. The bad actors, as we call them. This research and the information leaning from all of this rich data stream, how has that been accepted by transit agencies and are they benefiting and helping themself benefit from this knowledge?
[00:27:54] Sean Barbeau: I think that the one of the big selling points of OneBusAway is that it is very privacy focused. And when a transit agency, so like for example, when we deployed OneBusAway here in in Tampa, Kind of a server backend that the apps are talking to and interacting with, that's then kind of owned and maintained by the transit agency themselves. The transit agencies know kind of what the app is doing and that privacy kind of centric aspect of, of knowing. There's another model that some trans agencies have have pursued where they partner with the commercialization. But in that case, really an individual. And as a transit agency, you don't have much control over what happens to your data.
[00:28:32] Sean Barbeau: If it gets resold to third parties, you know, it's, it can be really hard to, to understand what, what, what exactly is happening. So I think from a transit agency point of view, the privacy angle has, has been important.
[00:28:44] Wayne Garcia: Is there an ultimate dream for OneBusAway? Like what? Either what we will find out from it or it's widespread adoption? You know what? What does that goal down the road look like?
[00:28:56] Kari Watkins: Maybe I'll take this one first, Sean.
[00:28:58] Sean Barbeau: Sure.
[00:28:58] Kari Watkins:
Um, We, we jokingly sometimes refer to me as the chief motivator behind the project, like if you have to give yourself a title. I think that's the role that I've served over the last 15 years of OneBusAway. So maybe I get to have the first vision.
[00:29:14] Kari Watkins: I would say that a large part of what we're trying to do is to make sure that every agency that wants to be getting real time information out there to their riders has the ability to do so without being locked into some sort of contract with a vendor where,
um, like Sean said, they're giving away their information, but they're not maintaining any control over that.
[00:29:38] Kari Watkins: Or they're locked in in a way that they don't have the ability to change who their vendor is because they've spent so much money. Like that's the beauty of open-source projects is you can have different folks who will come in and work with this open source code base and, and you're not sort of locked in in the same way.
[00:29:57] Kari Watkins: And I think there are a lot of agencies that are afraid to go down this world. And so we've got these smaller transit services out there where riders don't yet have this kind of information, and the smaller the transit agency, the more likely that it's serving a lot of disadvantaged riders, people who are traditionally underserved, people of color, people who don't have the financial means to be using other modes.
[00:30:23] Kari Watkins: We see more of those kinds of riders, the smaller the system is, and so we would love to, to be the enabler of getting those kinds of transit agencies up and running with real time information. I think at the same time, we'd love to, in the future be the backbone of some of these mobility as a service,
um, schemes that are coming out where there's great real time information paired with trip planning.
[00:30:50] Kari Watkins: And it's not just for the bus or the rail system, but it's, you know, your bike share and all of these things all in the same place. So I love to talk about like the super app, like what does it actually look like when you open up your phone and you've got this thing where you can do your payment plan. , your trip, store your data, all of these things in that same sort of super app, I think, I would love to be a part of that. Maybe we could get there one day with OneBusAway as the backbone of something like that.
[00:31:17] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. I love the idea of the, the Get Me There App, you know, just hit a button and it, it'll tell you all the different ways and the best ways and, but also take into account climate change and all these other things that we don't think about when we think about transportation necessarily.
[00:31:32] Wayne Garcia: Sean, you have any, any thoughts on that?
[00:31:34] Sean Barbeau: Yeah, absolutely. No, I think Kari summed it up really well. I think the way I kind of view OneBusAway, kind of like a public, public option where there's always OneBusAway is always gonna be around. Like it'll, the code will be on the internet forever. I think it's actually in the ice as part of GitHub's like, uh, Ice Cap Project, or I forget the exact name, but GitHub buried a bunch of code and ice.
[00:31:56] Sean Barbeau: In some point in case of global catastrophe that it could be resurrected and the world could be put back to together, I guess. So OneBusAway will will
outlive .outlive us. All of us, but I think that's the important part is that it'll be there. It's there. If a venture capitalist decides to stop funding another company, OneBusAway is still be around. If there's extreme privacy concerns and people just stop using other apps because of how their data is being used, while they'll still be there.
[00:32:19] Sean Barbeau: I think kind of serving as a, yeah, the, the public option where it can, it can serve as a collaborative space. I think of a wise use. Wise use of taxpayer dollars investing into creating the software that can be deployed and kind of picked up and dropped and, you know, dragged and dropped in any new city.
[00:32:37] Sean Barbeau: I think also seeing it to serve kind of as a platform for innovation where we can further some of these data standards that then one of us away doesn't have to be the only there other good apps out there and I think but those apps by themselves can't advance kind of the general, a larger state of the art in terms of how information is shared, how it's standardized, how these new services, flexible transit routes, for example, that are coming out, how that data is standardized and shared. I think it takes more of a collaborative space and environment, uh, and, and room to prototype things and deploy them and then build and, uh, I think OneBusAway is a great space for that as well. And I think to Carry's example too, Smaller Systems, University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez, who is a, a partner on, on this, uh, research project I was talking about, just deployed OneBusAway. The relatively small university town that's never had real time information. And, and so seeing more of those, like Kari said, I think would be awesome. And, and just making anything to, to make,
um, transit and, and other modes that support transit and support free movement around the city without having to necessarily own an automobile. I think anything one OneBusAway can do to further. That is great.
[00:33:47] Wayne Garcia: So again, if you're listening and you want to see if you can get your hands on the app for your city and it's being used, you can go to the Android store, the Google Android store, or the Apple App store. And it's OneBusAway, all one word. O N E B U S A W A Y. And we'll put some links online on our podcast website. Before we wrap up, uh, Sean, I know you've got a couple of updates on some things that are going on in the NICR grant and the various grants that it's funding. Uh, tell us about the latest with the Texas Transportation Institute.
[00:34:24] Sean Barbeau: Yeah, so I kind of touched on on that a little bit earlier. So a quick summary is, is we, the travel behavior data collection that, that I was talking about earlier, along with, with TTI, we did an analysis to see how accurate that data was. And in short, I mean, it, it, it's, it's giving us information that's roughly 150 feet of when we're, when someone transitions from one thing to another and within about a minute of them making that transition. So it, it's proven to be pretty accurate. We're working, there are some data gaps that we're looking at addressing. So it's, it is missing some transitions that we're using, the underlying technology that's built into most smart, modern smartphones to, to track. Same thing that, uh, when you go on a jog and it kind of detects that you're jogging. That, that type of technology. So we're looking at different ways to kind of fill in those gaps. And,
um,that's actually part of the, the next phase of the project that we're starting coordination with the University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez. And they're gonna be using the technology and deploying it in Mayagüez to look at, at traveler behavior there.
[00:35:26] Sean Barbeau: And, and we're also working with another computer science professor here at USF Dr. Tempestt Neal, who's gonna be helping out with some of. Kind of intelligent models to help us further flesh out some of this data that we're collecting.
[00:35:37] Wayne Garcia: Outstanding. Well, Dr. Watkins, Dr. Barbeau, thank you so much for being on the podcast today and, uh, talking about this really cool app.
[00:35:44] Wayne Garcia: I, I know I haven't seen the app, but I've seen this in the local bus system and I knew some people were using it. So it, it's such a cool thing. It's open source, everyone can use it, and what a want, an innovation and, and the insights we're gaining from it are. Just tremendous. Everybody out there in our audience, thank you for listening and we will be back next episode of Out of My Lane. Thanks a lot.
[00:36:11] Kari Watkins: Thank you.
[00:36:12] Sean Barbeau: Thanks, Wayne.
[00:36:15] Announcer: The National Institute for Congestion Reduction NICR is a transportation research center focused on innovative congestion strategies. The center is composed of researchers from the University of South Florida, the University of California, Berkeley, Texas A and M University and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and funded by the United States Department of Transportation. For more information, please visit www.nicr.usf.edu.