OneBusAway Support For PSTA Ends 1/31/18

Update: As of 2/7/18, entries for the PSTA routes are still showing on OBA, but data is no longer being fed over to the interface. The entries will be removed entirely around 2/18/18, when PSTA performs its next GTFS update to coincide with the 2/18/18 service changes. As of 2/25/18, all PSTA GTFS data has been removed from OBA.

I first reported on March 24, 2016 that the OneBusAway interface for the Tampa Bay region began showing General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) in addition to data for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART). The two were working together for a time on a common real-time transit tracking application that could one day be rolled out region-wide as part of the broader Regional Fare Collection Project.

However, since late 2017, I’ve learned that those collaboration efforts were coming an to end, partly because the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) was unable to obtain funding needed to expand OneBusAway (OBA) functionality across Pasco, Hernando, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties. This effort was further complicated by the recent restructuring of TBARTA and other issues.

By the end of 2017, it was decided that while collaboration work would continue with Flamingo Fares Tampa Bay, work to bring the two agencies together on OBA would not proceed. HART decided to build upon OBA Tampa on its own, while PSTA officially endorsed the Transit App. Transit App works similarly to OBA, but with different functionality – including the ability to show Direct Connect zones, which PSTA heavily favors over OBA. Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) in the Long Island region of New York also uses the Transit App and has found much success with it so far.

Because the collaboration between HART & PSTA is coming to end when it comes to real-time transit tracking, PSTA will officially remove all of its GTFS data from OBA – for good – after Wednesday, January 31, 2018. PSTA customers who are needing to access real-time transit arrivals information will have access to one of the following avenues:

  • Clever Devices: The Clever Devices interface, which PSTA installed back in 2012, will remain in place. This includes the desktop site, electronic message boards at transfer points, InfoLine capabilities (by calling 727-540-1900), and automated on-board announcements.
  • Transit App: The Transit App for smartphones can be downloaded for both Android & iPhone users. The app is free to download and very easy to use. I will demonstrate how to use the app at a later date.

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Updates to the OneBusAway interface for Tampa Bay

During the past week, a couple of updates have been made to OneBusAway for Tampa Bay, particularly the smartphone app.


Bike Share Layer

The folks at Coast Bike Share have been working with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) and the Center for Urban Transportation Research to add capabilities to the OneBusAway smartphone app that would all customers riding a HART or a Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus to not only find bike share hubs, but also view how many bikes are available and even initiate the reservation process – all in one place! Thanks to a new layer added in the app, you can now do just that!

When you open up the OBA app, you’ll notice the new Layer button above the Geolocation button. Tap the Layer button to view the options available.

When you view the list options to display, anything in gray will not be viewable until you tap the option that you wish to view. For now, only the Bike Share option is available. In the future however, added capabilities will allow for other options to be added – yes, I sense a HyperLINK option being added later on for HART.

When you’ve tapped the option that you want to view, the button will turn blue.

Now you can view all of the Coast Bike Share hubs, indicated by the blue “P” marker. These will show in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties – allowing you to plan what bus route to take to your particular destination AND view where the closest Coast hub is to your destination bus stop.

To view how many bikes are available at a particular hub, tap the hub marker that you wish to view and then a box appears showing the total number of spaces at that hub – and how many bikes are available to reserve. Once you’ve zeroed in on the hub that’s closest to your destination stop (that has bikes available), tap on the “Tap to reserve a bike” link and you’ll be directed to the Social Bicycles application to begin the reservation process.

If you have questions about how to use the Social Bicycles application or to learn more about Coast Bike Share and how it works, please visit the Coast Bike Share website.


HART Mission MAX Updates

In addition to the Bike Share capabilities, HART is also making gradual changes to the app to reflect the upcoming “Mission MAX” system restructuring.

The OBA Desktop Interface showing the existing and re-aligned (MAX) Route 5 through the USF area. Click the image for a larger view.

When you open the OBA app, or view the desktop site, you’ll notice that some routes will have additional placeholders for the post-restructured routing and stops. The existing routing and stops will be viewable until October 8, 2017 – when the system restructuring takes effect – but HART is getting the work done now so that customers can be able to catch a bus without worry once the restructuring takes effect.


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OneBusAway – PSTA

If you visited Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s OneBusAway desktop website (http://tampa.onebusaway.org/enterprise/) this morning, you may have noticed something different.

PSTA's Route 59 on the HART OneBusAway desktop website.
PSTA’s Route 59 on the HART OneBusAway desktop website.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus routes were indeed showing up on HART’s OBA interface, rather than HART’s own routes (though HART Routes 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36, 37, 39, 41, 45, 46, 57, 96, and 400-MetroRapid were all showing as they normally would, as well as some HART express routes). If you were using the mobile app for OBA, the situation was a lot less confusing, as both HART and PSTA routes showed up on the interface.

Now, while I can only guess that today’s occurrence was a test run of sorts, HART and PSTA have been working together for the past several months to bring OBA functionality over to Pinellas County, as part of a broader regional connectivity plan that will soon usher in the first stages of a regional smart card-based fare structure. So therefore, I also see today’s occurrence to be the next stage in preparations for the official launch of OBA in Pinellas, which is currently slated to happen sometime later this year.

Don't worry, PSTA's current "Real Time" interface, powered by Clever Devices, is not going away.
Don’t worry, PSTA’s current “Real Time” interface, powered by Clever Devices, is not going away.

For those wondering about PSTA’s current “Real Time” bus tracking system that is powered through Clever Devices, that system is here to stay. Instead, OBA will become an additional convenience for PSTA customers – especially those who utilize smartphones. Those of us who have utilized the Clever Devices interface know that if you’re using a smartphone, the only effective avenue to track buses in real time is the mobile “text-only” site.

With the preparations continuing for PSTA to join the OBA realm – which already includes the New York City MTA, Sound Transit, and Atlanta’s MARTA, in addition to HART – expect to see more great things from both agencies as we head towards the summer months. My only question now is, will the official launch of OBA (Pinellas) happen sooner than some of us think it will? Only time will tell on that I guess…


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