Moving America on Transit - Innovation in Real-time Transit Information

Real-time transit information has many benefits for new and existing transit riders, including reducing perceived wait time for riders and attracting new riders who are otherwise reluctant to use the transit system. However, offering real-time transit services to transit riders has its challenges. The cost for a transit agency to implement both vehicle tracking technologies and information dissemination technologies such as electronic signs or mobile phone applications is not trivial. Transit agencies can cost-effectively increase information dissemination by openly sharing their data with the public, although, there are challenges to "freeing" transit data on an industry-wide basis and fostering a global community of innovation for transit applications. On January 19th 2012, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) convened a roundtable meeting with transit industry stakeholders and third party application developers to discuss the current state of real-time transit applications in the United States. Two key barriers for large-scale proliferation of mobile real-time transit applications identified in the White House roundtable were: 1) a lack of a consensus on standards for the exchange of real-time transit data, and 2) a lack of "clinical trials" of cutting-edge technologies in this area. OneBusAway is an open-source transit information software system, including several mobile apps, that was originally developed at the University of Washington and deployed in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. As part of their real-time BusTime API pilot project in early 2011, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York leveraged the OneBusAway software to build their own transit information system. MTA also implemented a modified version of the CEN/TS15531 Service Interface for Real Time Information (SIRI) in their OneBusAway server to share their data with mobile app developers. The first step in a "clinical trial" using OneBusAway and the modified SIRI technology, has been considered a success by MTA, and in 2012 MTA is moving on to the second step of deploying the same technology to other NYC boroughs with expected completion in 2013. OneBusAway has significant promise to reduce the cost of transit information system implementations by allowing agencies to re-use open-source software that has already been proven in other regions. Additionally, the official CEN SIRI committee has expressed interest in adopting modifications to the SIRI standard, such as that deployed by MTA, which would create the first ratified 3rd party real-time transit API standard for mobile devices. However, several problems exist to broad deployment and adoption of OneBusAway and the mobile SIRI interface: 1) The MTA OneBusAway source code is currently separate from the original OneBusAway source code used in Puget Sound. MTA has made many improvements to the original source code, and it is expected that the MTA source code will become the new foundation of the OneBusAway project moving forward. 2) As a result of #1 above, the original Puget Sound OneBusAway native mobile apps are not currently compatible with the new MTA version of OneBusAway software. Additionally, the OneBusAway mobile apps that are available on the Apple AppStore, Google Play, and Windows Phone store are currently only available for the Puget Sound region. As a result, the OneBusAway mobile apps, a major feature of the original OneBusAway project, are not currently readily deployable to other transit agencies that set up the OneBusAway software for their system. 3) As of early 2012, MTA is the only transit agency to deploy a modified version of SIRI as a real-time transit API. As a result, there are no open-source mobile application proof-of-concept/reference implementations that demonstrate the ability of a mobile application to successfully interact with the modified version of the SIRI standard. Open-source mobile apps that use the modified SIRI standard would enable developers to rapidly prototype and design apps that leverage this new standard. This project will build on existing work by MTA, OpenPlans, and OneBusAway contributors to test a deployment of the modified SIRI standard with an open-source reference implementation of a mobile client application. Additionally, the existing OneBusAway mobile apps will be improved upon so they can easily be deployed to multiple regional OneBusAway deployments. This work will use the existing free, open-source transit software from the OneBusAway project (, as well as the open-source software developed by MTA and OpenPlans during the deployment of the MTA BusTime API.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $154975.00
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Center for Transit Research

    Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida
    4202 East Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
    Tampa, FL  United States  33620
  • Project Managers:

    Volinski, Joel

  • Performing Organizations:

    National Center for Transit Research

    Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida
    4202 East Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
    Tampa, FL  United States  33620
  • Principal Investigators:

    Barbeau, Sean

  • Start Date: 20120302
  • Expected Completion Date: 20151001
  • Actual Completion Date: 20151001
  • Source Data: RiP Project 29335

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01467831
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Center for Transit Research
  • Contract Numbers: 79017
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 3:40PM