Watch a personal project turned transit application for the Seattle area grow over time.

Transit @ Alpertopia demo

Using the facilities provided by the University of Washington and Google, I’m hoping to build a web application that’s easily accessible to all people in Seattle and help convince people that transit can be easy and economical.

Transit @ Alpertopia will eventually show all real-time positions of buses in any specified route in the Metro King County transit system, hopefully incorporating all possible bus stops with incoming/arrival times. I’m hoping for a nice, clean look when this app is done. 🙂 There’s two things I want this app to do: (1) be engaging enough so the client spends time looking at new bus routes/stops to plan transit transportation plans, and (2) be functional enough so the frequently-visiting client can get the information they need quickly.

This’ll be a blog of sorts, just updates on what I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks.

September 20th, 2007: Started working on the initial design, I’m starting to poke around at different map programs’ APIs, and it seems like there’s a good backing behind Google Maps’ API – a community that already has many answers to my questions!

October 20th, 2007: Looks good, I’ve added in a static dataset of where some example route 44 buses would be, and added in a polyline to designate the entire route’s itinerary. Hopefully, every single routes’ polyline will be stored in a database and called up when a client queries the route. I’m starting to start designing the system for dynamically importing AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) data directly to the map, hopefully with some sort of indicator with their current heading.

January 14th, 2008: After some time off, I’ve revisited this application. After figuring out subtle bugs that were blocking me from connecting to my data source at ITS (server needs a specific port!), I’ve added the live functionality to the app. Using javascript to dynamically update the marker locations and AJAX to poll the database for bus routes, it’s looking more and more functional! One issue that I have now is to efficiently encode the polylines for the bus routes. As of now, I only have 44, and trying to encode 372’s route is proving harder than expected. 🙁

September 24th, 2008: I told myself over and over that I’d work on this application over the summer, but my other responsibilities started taking over nearly all of my free time.  Strangely, I’ve spent a couple of hours in the days leading right up to the first day of class here at the UW, namely finally importing the Metro data into a local database and playing with it to find out what it all means.  I’ve done next to nothing on the actual application itself, but I’m starting to get a better understanding of the data available to me and will probably start incorporating it into the application soon.  I found that I could be running a java package that self-updates, but since this project isn’t quite public or active yet (plus the fact I don’t have access to a dedicated server/VPS to run Java constantly), I’ll put it off indefinitely.  One aspect I don’t understand about the data is how route directions are stored, but maybe I’ll have an epiphany soon!

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