Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Matt Kelly:
February 2, 2011 — Riders can now track University of Virginia and Charlottesville Area Transportation System buses on their Android telephones.
Fourth-year biomedical engineering major Rohan Puri designed WahooBus, an application that connects Android cellular telephones to the Global Positioning System, which tracks University and CAT buses. Riders can determine how soon the next bus will arrive at a stop, search out the 10 nearest bus stops to their location, view a map of all bus stops and keep a list of specific bus stops.
Bus tracking has been available online and an application called 'Hoos Bus has existed for Apple's iPhone, but this is the first for Android-powered smartphones.
"I think it's pretty nifty," said Jonathan Monceaux, transportation demand management professional with U.Va.'s Department of Parking and Transportation. "If you know the number or name of your stop, it's a great way to quickly get arrival times. It also breaks it down by route so you can search for stops that way if you don't know the name or number of the stop."
Parking and Transportation has been promoting bus ridership and having smartphone applications that can track buses makes the system more accessible to the riders.
"This is yet another convenient way for passengers to access arrival data – making the decision to walk or wait easier," Monceaux said. "It also increases safety for our passengers as they can determine when to head out to the bus stop rather than waiting alone in the dark at a stop for an unknown amount of time."
Puri said the application has been popular, with about 600 downloads in the first two weeks, a rate he said was growing at about 50 to 70 downloads a day.
"It has worked out phenomenally," he said. "Way better than I could have hoped. The application is currently rated at five stars by users and has been given 26 ratings. As of right now, the application has been used more than 5,000 times."
Puri, who had an interest in mobile applications and some programming experience, taught himself how to write programs for the Android operating system.
"I've had the idea for a bus-finding application for a while because I was annoyed that the iPhone had one and Android phones did not, despite the fact that Android phones are becoming increasingly more popular," Puri said. "The motivation for creating the app was really just to learn something new and give back to U.Va. a little."
The University offers a package of applications for the Apple iPhone that access a variety of services and information, said Zachary Wheat, Web Communications and Interactive Media director.
"We have iPhone applications loaded onto 14,000 telephones, with 209,000 separate sessions," Wheat said. "We have 22 different sub-applications, including things such as the course directory, and while iPhone is still the most popular, we are also working on a package for the Android telephone."