Software created to solve Tampa public transit problem helps other agencies in California, France

Software first created to solve a public transit problem in Tampa is now being used around the world. 

A University of South Florida researcher Sean Barbeau created software to help transit agencies share better real-time arrivals, and it’s helped the Hillsborough Transit Authority (HART) for nine years through the OneBusAway app.

"In 2013, we were working with HART to launch the OneBusAway app in Tampa that tells people when their bus is going to arrive, and we realized that we really needed to look at the data in detail to make sure people were getting good, quality information," said Barbeau, the principal mobile software architect at the USF Center for Urban Transportation Research. "It flags errors early on, so they can be fixed before it actually gets to somebody when you’re pulling up Google Maps, Apple Maps or the OneBusAway app here in Tampa."

Fast-forward to 2022, a few more transit agencies are hopping onto the open-source software.

"Most recently the state of California and the federal government of France both found it and realized that they could run that tool in all of the transit agencies in California and France, and be able to improve the quality for everyone at the same time," said Barbeau.

The tool is one of a kind, and it can translate well across state lines through the general transit feed specification (GTFS) that most U.S. transit agencies use, Barbeau said.

"So it would be pretty easy for another state government to come along and say okay we want to improve the transit data for everyone in Florida for example and be able to do that in one fell swoop. So we hope to see that happen," he said.

The coding picked up how broken real-time information was for riders in Tampa, and Barbeau said he’s excited to see how other governments and public transit agencies use the software.