UW News

July 9, 1999

UW professor’s latest Web tool helps area bus riders travel smarter

The only thing worse than waiting for a tardy bus is arriving at the bus stop a
minute late and having no clue whether your ride has come and gone, says University of Washington Electrical Engineering Professor Daniel Dailey, whose latest creation can help commuters keep closer tabs on their transportation.

MYBUS, a software program designed by Dailey’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Research Group (ITS) that is accessible on the World Wide Web, allows riders to monitor the status of their bus from their home or office. Users can thus time their departure to the last minute, knowing that their ride has not passed them by.

“Research tells us that the most stressful aspect of travel is the uncertainty of whether a bus, train or plane has already left,” Dailey said. “So while this can’t make the buses run faster or be less crowded, it can alleviate the stress that comes from not knowing where the bus is.”

MYBUS organizes information according to bus stop. The destination and estimated arrival and departure times are displayed for each route on the stop. The display is updated every minute.

“We chose a display format that people were already familiar with,” Dailey said. “Specifically, the type of display that travelers see in airports for flight information.”

So far, MYBUS includes four stops: University Way and NE 45th Street, the UW HUB, the Renton Boeing Park and Ride and Kingsgate Park and Ride in Kirkland. Eventually, officials envision a system that includes 33 sites across the city, a plan that Dailey says can proceed as funding becomes available.

“The technology is all on board for it to happen,” he said.

MYBUS is the latest product of the UW College of Engineering’s Intelligent Transportation Systems program and is the spin-off of an $18 million public-private initiative called Smart Trek. Seattle, with its rapidly increasing traffic and congestion problems, was one of four cities nationwide selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a test site to experiment with information technologies intended to improve the efficiency of crowded roads. Seattle ranks among the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas in traffic congestion, with population and employment projected to swell another 50 percent by 2020. To keep pace with the growth in vehicle use nationwide, transportation experts estimate that 34 percent more highway capacity will be needed at a cost of $150 billion. Installing intelligent transportation system technology, on the other hand, would cost only $10 billion and could reduce the demand for new highway!
s by at least two-thirds, experts say.

“Smart Trek’s overall goal is to show how information technology can help people make smarter, faster travel decisions,” Dailey said. Related programs have included Traffic TV, a UW cable television channel that broadcasts real-time rush-hour traffic updates, and Bus View, an Internet-based application that provides viewers with a map and shows the real-time locations of buses.

MYBUS is patterned after a third program, Transit Watch, which features airport-style computer terminals installed at Metropolitan King County transit centers to allow patrons to monitor the status of their connecting buses. MYBUS differs from Transit Watch both in being available on the Web and in format.

“We made it more of a countdown to arrival time, as opposed to just saying ‘early’ or ‘delayed,'” Dailey said.

The driving force behind the Smart Trek projects is a network developed by UW engineers to gather travel data from a variety of sources, including more than 3,000 Washington Department of Transportation highway sensors and Metro’s bus tracking system. The UW network processes the data to make it usable in a variety of applications.

The key to making such technology work, according to Dailey, lies in giving people timely, useful traffic information that enables them to make choices that reduce congestion and travel time.


For more information, contact Dailey at (206) 543-2493 or dan@ee.washington.edu. The MYBUS site can be found at www.its.washington.edu/mybus/.