One Bus Away too far

posted at 4:24 pm on November 23, 2010 by Fausta Wertz

Leave it to government to leave you stranded.

As snow pounded Washington state and Seattle commuters waited for a bus, the iPod app failed because King County shut off the data feed that tracks bus locations.

Brian Ferris, who created the OneBusAway app explains,

In his blog post, Ferris notes that outdated technology on King County buses makes it especially difficult to track bus locations when weather turns nasty.
The position of each bus in Metro KC is not tracked with GPS, but rather with a decidedly lower-tech approach. Each bus is outfitted with a device that can radio the current odometer reading for the bus back to a server. If we know the odometer reading when the bus starts its route, we can periodically monitor the real-time odometer readings to determine how far along the route the bus has traveled. This gives us an estimate of position and from there, an estimate of how early or late a bus is. This is how http://mybus.org works and OneBusAway is just a fancy front-end to MyBus.

The problem comes with buses on adverse weather reroute, or any type of temporary reroute. When a bus goes on reroute, the physical route changes and the odometry calculation based on the original route used above is no longer accurate. In a perfect world, we would know when a bus is on reroute and adjust to its new route. Unfortunately, there is currently no automated way for handling this situation.

King County is “years away” from a GPS bus tracking system.

Your good-weather friends at King County, however, thank you for using public transit.

Cross-posted at Fausta’s blog


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Where is Schoolbus Nagin when you need him?

malkinmania on November 23, 2010 at 4:31 PM

Yes, it is a slow news day. Well except for that whole Korea thing.

Bishop on November 23, 2010 at 4:32 PM

Primitive technology…

yubley on November 23, 2010 at 4:33 PM

King County is “years away” from a GPS bus tracking system.

Why? Those Garmins and TomToms are pretty cheap. How expensive could it be to equip a fleet of buses with them, and have them connected to a central monitoring center?

AZCoyote on November 23, 2010 at 4:33 PM

I don’t mean to be a dick, but… WTF? Why is this post here, on this blog?

IronDioPriest on November 23, 2010 at 4:34 PM

The Fire Pelosi buses ran on time, all the time.

malkinmania on November 23, 2010 at 4:37 PM

IronDioPriest on November 23, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Yeah, and a nice little FYI about the smorgasbord of guest bloggers would have been nice.

Free Constitution on November 23, 2010 at 4:38 PM

This is how Obamacare will be run – ain’t it gonna be wonderful!!

Chip on November 23, 2010 at 4:38 PM

Yeah, and a nice little FYI about the smorgasbord of guest bloggers would have been nice.

Free Constitution on November 23, 2010 at 4:38 PM

Ed said yesterday that there would be guest bloggers through the weekend as he is traveling. I forget which thread, though…

OmahaConservative on November 23, 2010 at 4:41 PM

OmahaConservative on November 23, 2010 at 4:41 PM

Well tuck it away in an unrelated thread. I looked for a post announcing the new er, situation to no avail. I mean, when Ed and Allah are still here plus umpteen C list bloggers half of whom nobody’s heard of, I get worried.

Ed, I like you and all but I don’t think it takes 15 bloggers to replace you.

Free Constitution on November 23, 2010 at 4:46 PM

GPS is bad for the Salmon…

ronsfi on November 23, 2010 at 4:46 PM

This has nothing to do with the topic, I just love the name.

Skandia Recluse on November 23, 2010 at 4:47 PM

We could boost this to 200 comments just for the sheer randomness of it.

TexasDan on November 23, 2010 at 4:54 PM

Skandia Recluse on November 23, 2010 at 4:47 PM

look around the seattle area. they gots all kinds of fun names.

And whoopty doo on Seattle. The whole State of Alaska shut down due to the ice storm we got (which Washington is now getting) yesterday.

upinak on November 23, 2010 at 4:55 PM

Free Constitution on November 23, 2010 at 4:46 PM

I prefer guest bloggers to no new threads for hours on end.

OmahaConservative on November 23, 2010 at 4:56 PM

Cross-posted at Fausta’s blog

there.. you are now linked.

Next time use your HTML coding and transfer over to the wordpress blog. If it asks to transfer all, click yes.

upinak on November 23, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Wait, everyone tells me what a great transit system they have in Seattle. Is Bill Gates too snobby to help them fix the system?

BoSox_or_Bust on November 23, 2010 at 5:03 PM

Why on earth should any of us care about a cell phone app that temporarily didn’t work? Seriously…Now I know one blog that I never need to visit

AngusMc on November 23, 2010 at 5:04 PM

The ‘hockey puck’ vehicle GPS transmitters have been out and in use for about 10 years.

Are they still pulling those buses with horses?

GarandFan on November 23, 2010 at 5:04 PM

is this some kind of self-parody?

also, too, who are these schmucks who took over hotair?

sesquipedalian on November 23, 2010 at 5:08 PM

AngusMc on November 23, 2010 at 5:04 PM

The blogger must live in Seattle.

OmahaConservative on November 23, 2010 at 5:10 PM

sesquipedalian on November 23, 2010 at 5:08 PM

Looks like the headlines may be the place to post until after the holiday.

OmahaConservative on November 23, 2010 at 5:12 PM

Give her/him a break. They may not be use to the wordpress way of blogging and I think they meant to link a different blog but couldn’t figure it out.

Let it be… Start the Holiday off right.. shoot we only have 2 days till Thanksgiving.

upinak on November 23, 2010 at 5:13 PM

Let it be… Start the Holiday off right.. shoot we only have 2 days till Thanksgiving.

upinak on November 23, 2010 at 5:13 PM

You are right, darlin’ and I apologize for the snark in my last post.

OmahaConservative on November 23, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Amateur radio operators put together a GPS tracking system of their own before cell phone technology, and it does weather observations as well. (http://aprs.fi for one graphic portal) Odometer tracking? Totally lame and predictably inaccurate, how the hell did they get any starting capital to build a business on that?

Socratease on November 23, 2010 at 5:37 PM

Seattle is a horribly run city. Last night, my 30 min commute took 5 hours (and my car ended up stranded on the side of I-5) because these morons decided not to open the northbound express lanes… coupled with the closure of Hwy 99, Seattle was reduced to a single, congested north-south artery which caused complete gridlock. People who should have been home well before the full “blizzard” conditions ended up stuck on the road–some people for up to 12 hours, all so that DOT didn’t have to spend some extra time the next morning switching the direction of the express lanes.

The busses were stuck there with the rest of us, and today they have cancelled many routes. You’re better off with a car.

DaveS on November 23, 2010 at 5:54 PM

Ummmm… it’s an “iPhone” app not an “iPod” app… iPods have now built in wifi nor 3G in them so a tracking app that needs to get regular updates would be useless… Heck, the original article this post is based on even says “iPhone app” in the headline…

angrywonk on November 23, 2010 at 5:56 PM

Ummmm… it’s an “iPhone” app not an “iPod” app… iPods have now built in wifi nor 3G in them

angrywonk on November 23, 2010 at 5:56 PM

That’s not true. The iPod Touch would, indeed, be the minimum platform for running any iOS4 app that doesn’t use features specific to phone hardware (GPS, phone, etc)

DaveS on November 23, 2010 at 5:59 PM

Years away?

Our company’s private contractor came in at midnight and by 6pm that day 445 rigs were beeping away on the dispatchers screen.

Limerick on November 23, 2010 at 6:00 PM

I have known about Fausta and her work for a little over a year now. I learned about who she was via the chat room during Ed’s radio/internet show. Chatizens in the chatroom, along with Jazz Shaw is informative and hilarity all rolled into one. If you have not had a chance to listen to Ed and chat; you are missing out.

Fausta has been connected with CPAC, I believe she attended the gathering this year, and more importantly is EXCELLENT when it comes to learning about our Latin American neighbors. If you want to know about the dangers lurking just a nanosecond across the border; Fausta has the skinny. She was an supreme help in understanding what went down during the Honduran crisis.

She also has a Facebook page for info, and I believe does blog talk radio as well. I also think there is a link to her site on the side menu on this web page.

Happy Thanksgiving Fausta!

freeus on November 23, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Hey, now I can catch local news here. I got home no problem last night, but this morning stood around freezing for a half hour waiting for a bus. Finally said screw it and worked from home.

JamesB on November 23, 2010 at 6:08 PM

Fausta [...] is EXCELLENT when it comes to learning about our Latin American neighbors.

What he said.

steebo77 on November 23, 2010 at 6:11 PM

The busses were stuck there with the rest of us, and today they have cancelled many routes. You’re better off with a car.

DaveS on November 23, 2010 at 5:54 PM

Seattle sucks when it snows. To many stupid people who don’t know how to drive on rain and snow. I don’t miss that one part. Sorry to hear about you day Dave.

upinak on November 23, 2010 at 6:58 PM

Dont worry Seattle..Obama is sending you a strongly worded letter.

malkinmania on November 23, 2010 at 7:38 PM

The blogger must live in Seattle.

OmahaConservative on November 23, 2010 at 5:10 PM

This was my thought, as well. And I live in Seattle.

RachDubya on November 23, 2010 at 7:43 PM

She also has a Facebook page for info, and I believe does blog talk radio as well. I also think there is a link to her site on the side menu on this web page.

I’ve listened to Fausta, among other conservative hosts, over at Blog Talk Radio, where Ed used to have a show. The blog I contribute to, AndRightlySo, also links her site. Nice to see you here, Fausta.

Bigfoot on November 23, 2010 at 7:47 PM

You have to know “Seattle, People’s Republic of” to understand. We also have these wonderful articulated buses — kind of two-piece wonders which, when it gets a little slippery, proceed to jackknife in all the wrong places, thereby bringing almost the entire bus system and the associated road system, to a screeching halt. They are especially good in any area which has hills or corners or turns…basically anywhere the road isn’t straight. They are guaranteed to jackknife at the most inopportune time and in the most miserable weather. God I love the Pacific Northwest!

Bill M on November 23, 2010 at 9:05 PM

A GPS app for the M-15 bus on Second Avenue in New York would be hilarious to watch, given the line’s habit of having no buses arrive for 20 or more minutes, followed by as many as 12-15 buses all piled up in front and in back of each other arriving at the same time. It would look like an invading horde marching down the east side of Manhattan.

jon1979 on November 23, 2010 at 9:20 PM

This crap costs money, and lots of it. GPS here, GPS there, drug testing, cameras in every classroom, electronic gadgets everywhere. How is it paid for? Gee, maybe it’s taxes and fees. Maybe this crap just falls from the sky.

Does a city transit bus really, really need real time tracking? If you all want convenience, then quit bitching when tickets, taxes, and fees keep going up.

Pelayo on November 24, 2010 at 12:51 AM

No way to track buses accurately, but billions to waste on light rail that goes nowhere.

Progressive fools couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag when it was raining money, and now they are even worse off, because all they know how to do is burn through other people’s money.

JeffB. on November 24, 2010 at 2:07 AM

They have an app to get hobos to the soup kitchens and anarchists to the Starbucks.

Bet those never fail.

NoDonkey on November 24, 2010 at 2:22 AM

I live about 70 miles from Spokane and about 400 from Seattle.

Actually it IS big news when the libs in Seattle have to drive on snow and ice! The 3 Stooges is an apt comparison!

Got down to about 8 below where I live last night! Must be that glowball warming I hear so much about! November normals around here are in the high 20′s and low 30′s with snow, arse deep to a tall Indian!! Right now, it’s too darn cold to snow!

AllosaursRus on November 24, 2010 at 12:30 PM

You have to know “Seattle, People’s Republic of” to understand. We also have these wonderful articulated buses — kind of two-piece wonders which, when it gets a little slippery, proceed to jackknife in all the wrong places, thereby bringing almost the entire bus system and the associated road system, to a screeching halt. They are especially good in any area which has hills or corners or turns…basically anywhere the road isn’t straight. They are guaranteed to jackknife at the most inopportune time and in the most miserable weather. God I love the Pacific Northwest!

Bill M on November 23, 2010 at 9:05 PM

Heh! There was a local story here yesterday about the morons over on the left coast leaving their cars abandoned in the middle of the street because of the ice! Snow plows couldn’t get around and the whole place was one big clusterflock!

AllosaursRus on November 24, 2010 at 12:35 PM

Anyone who wants to see a tragicomedy should come to Seattle when it snows.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhZCyQ3emQg

amkun on November 24, 2010 at 12:40 PM

Or rains for that matter. It rains all the time. WHY CAN’T YOU PEOPLE DRIVE IN IT YET?

amkun on November 24, 2010 at 12:43 PM

Hey guys, I actually know this stuff since I’ve been on one transit customers’ or watchdog group or another for more than 20 years.

The GPS system used to track buses in some cities, including mine, is a whole lot more involved than the GPS in your car. For starters, it’s got to be two-way communication rather than just listening to the satellites and displaying a position.

Second, the devices are installed permanently rather than just stuck on the windshield. That results in a more complicated and costly installation. They have to be much more solid in construction to rack up 100,000 miles a year or more in a heavy-duty vehicle without breaking down. Think mil-spec.

Third, the devices used in transit cost more because they’re doing a lot more. They control automated stop announcements (required by federal regulations), communicate vehicle and operator ID to the dispatching center, control signage, and provide communications in the event of a crime or other emergency.

Finally, there’s a lot more you need to do to take advantage of the technology. I’m not familiar with the specific case of KC Metro, but they may not have had the funds to modernize their control center, or their control center is not old enough to need replacement yet.

Glenside on November 24, 2010 at 9:26 PM