Friday, July 22, 2011

OC Apps

A while ago, there was a competition for app developers in Ottawa to create applications to benefit our city.  During this time, there was a slew of OC Transpo apps in development that used the city's open GPS bus data to let users know exactly where their bus was. Suddenly it was possible to see if you've missed an early bus, or if your bus is running late. Knowing these little nuances could lead you to take an alternate bus or to take some time to grab a coffee.

Then somewhere along the way, the city removed developer's access to bus GPS data. 'you can't trust them!' OC Transpo and the city said, 'that data isn't meant for the public!' Then, in the middle of their explanation, they snuck in a little, 'plus, it'll compete with our own applications that'll have city advertising opportunities.'

There is is. A popular OC Transpo application for the city means a possible revenue stream. Since the live data has been pulled, the app scene has stalled somewhat. Some of the apps are no longer available, while others that relied on live data are using schedule data to keep going.

This new official GPS application with live data may be on its way soon. In a Drives in Circles blog, it is mentioned that "a new piece of equipment that is being installed to read smart cards and provide new GPS functions. (I'm really happy about this, as the system actually has functions to provide YOU with information, YAY!)" This development may be what commuters have been longing for, but it isn't here yet.

Until then, there are a few ways for commuters to find out route information and when their bus is coming. Here are a few official and alternative applications that are out there:

It's an oldie, but a goodie! Before smartphones and 3G, and even before cell phone ubiquety, there was 560-1000. You could call this number with any bus stop number to find out when buses will arrive. Even today, you can call and find out when buses will come by anytime within the next week.

OC Transpo recently revamped their mobile website. It's now easier to use the Travel Planner, see detours and cancellations, and get stop and route schedules from a mobile browser. They also added a tool that explains all the route changes that are part of the September Route Optimization plan.

Google Maps

The official Travel Planner is really helpful to get you from point A to point B, but sometimes it's difficult to use or generates inefficient routes. Google Maps is easy to use and can be relied upon to come up with the best route more often than the Travel Planner. With the Google Maps app or through the website, you can route a trip from any point (even your current location) to any destination and get instructions on how to get around with OC Transpo. It can also be used to find walking, driving, and biking instructions in Ottawa.

You know those old school television screens that tell you when buses will arrive at the older bus stations? This app is much like that, but slick and works for every bus stop in the city. You can see when buses scheduled to arrive, as well as see upcoming stops along a bus' route, and how long it will take. It's simpler and easier to use than the official .mobi site, though has less information. Bonus points to its developer for snagging @OCTranspo on Twitter for this app.

OCTranspo Geolocation

This app uses your GPS location to automatically find nearby bus stops, placing your location and the location of those stops on a Google map. It relays when buses are to arrive at those stops, and counts down how many minutes until it arrives. If you want to know info for a stop further away, you can look up data of any stop with the 4-digit bus stop number.

My OC Transpo

This Android app let's you view bus routes,  stop arrival times, plan trips, and use Google Maps to find nearby stops and view routes.

This companion to Twitter's @OCTranspoAlerts has more stats than you would ever need about cancelled buses. It keeps a log of cancelled trips, and shares the data in several ways. Most cancelled route? 95 by far. Most common weather conditions? Cloudy (did you think it was snow? That's second-most common). Thursdays and rush hours the most common days and times for cancelled trips. Who knew?

Where is my bus?

This was a great app that let you know where your bus is. Once GPS data was pulled, it used the time schedules to approximate where your bus should be. According to the app developer, @titanous, it's on the back burner until live data is made available again.


  1. There's also an app that's called "Stops." It's not bad at locating you, telling you which stops are closest, what buses service that stop, and when the next bus is due.

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