SeattleBus and the iPad

I received a call last night, rather out of the blue. “Are you porting OneBusAway to the iPad?” was the opening line.

“Uh… No, but then i didn’t write OneBusAway either. I wrote SeattleBus…”

That bit of confusion resolved, we talked some more about Brian Ferris’ very impressive work with OneBusAway and contributions that it’s made to Seattle Public Transit. I thought it was worth writing some here for more public consumption too.

I am incredibly impressed and whole-heartedly applaud the work that Brian has done with his web site, public and open API, and general efforts to improve the daily life of folks using public transit in and around Seattle. I think the opportunities to do some interesting things with that site and the iPad are tremendous, even more so if you look at some of the cool things that the WalkScore folks are doing as well with their open source graph server.

I’m keeping SeattleBus an iPhone only application. I originally wrote it for me, and I continue to use it on a regular basis. My concept for the application is really only meant for the iPhone setup. Brief, very direct access to the route information you need right then. There is a lot you can do with more screen real estate, more detailed information about routes, etc. That’s not what I want SeattleBus to be. The narrow focus is the important thing to me, and the larger format screen of an iPad just doesn’t seem needed. Glorious, yes, but not needed.

For the folks hacking away at similar things – I can assure you from feedback that I’ve received: There is desire to have something more. I would encourage you to look closely at Brian’s work for ideas and inspiration. He has requested that anything using his site and APIs be made freely available (non commercial) – a perfect platform for hacking and learning while also benefitting the community. Take advantage of what he’s made available, go forth, and make some great things.

So what next for SeattleBus? Not a whole lot in the near future. King County Metro is still somewhat freaky about the use of it’s data from a policy perspective. That’s a damper on future development for me. I don’t make even close to a living from SeattleBus and as you might suspect, other projects are taking most of my spare time right now.

I am looking for an application idea to create for the iPad that would fit a iPad. Way more than an iPhone application, somewhat less than a desktop application. I haven’t yet found that fit and inspiration, but I’m still looking and not feeling in too much of a rush to just do something. I’ll strike when I find the right thing. For now… I’ll keep looking around.

2 thoughts on “SeattleBus and the iPad

  1. Regarding the “somewhat freaky” thing: I sent a message to the Mayor’s office about getting better access to this sort of data. Since McGinn is talking about opening up this kind of stuff anyway, this seems like a reasonable place to start.

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  2. Thanks for the kind words Joe. I think I got the same call/email about making a OneBusAway iPad that you did yesterday, though I could actually claim to know something about OneBusAway ; ) That said, I haven’t had a burning desire to work on iPad app for OneBusAway for a couple reasons:

    1) There aren’t that many people with iPads yet, especially with 3G data connections.
    2) It’s not quite the mobile device that the iPhone is. I think a good website (especially one that takes advantage of a location-aware browser) would be just as useful on the iPad and would have the bonus benefit of being useful for non-iPad users as well.

    It ultimately comes back to the fact that there are so many mobile platforms and people want native apps for all of them. Part of the reason that I published the OneBusAway REST api was to acknowledge the fact that I couldn’t possible write apps for all the platforms that people were interested in. I’m hoping someone will take the existing OneBusAway iPhone app source code:

    http://code.google.com/p/onebusaway-iphone/

    and run with it to create something cool for the iPhone.

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