Where's the Bus?


App screenshot


App screenshot

Everybody who waits at a bus stop wants to know one thing — where's the bus?

Thanks to Tiramisu, a new iPhone app developed at Carnegie Mellon University, transit riders in Pittsburgh will always be in the know.

Crowdsourcing will enable them to share arrival times with each other.

With Tiramisu — literally, Italian for "pick me up" — riders easily use their iPhones to signal location and occupancy level of the Port Authority of Allegheny County bus they're riding, in real-time.

The app is available free through the iTunes AppStore

When a rider first activates the app, Tiramisu displays the nearest stops and a list of buses or light rail vehicles that are scheduled to arrive.

The list includes arrival times, based either on historical data for that route or on real-time reports from riders.

When the desired vehicle arrives, the user indicates the level of "fullness" and then presses a button, allowing their phone to share an ongoing GPS trace with the Tiramisu server. 

Once aboard, the rider can use Tiramisu to find out which stop is next and to report problems, positive experiences and suggestions.

On the flip side, passengers waiting for the bus or light-rail transit can access the user-generated content for arrival times and more.

The information also lets riders who use wheelchairs know if there is space on the bus. Blind riders can use the app through the iPhone screenreader.

"But the beauty of Tiramisu is that it provides information that is valuable not just for people with disabilities, but for every rider. This universal design approach helps everyone," said Aaron Steinfeld.

Steinfeld is a senior systems scientist in CMU's Robotics Institute with expertise in transportation technologies.

"It can even benefit non-riders, such as local shops, because riders will know if they have time to go into a store," he said. 

Steinfeld is co-director of RERC-APT, a collaboration between CMU and the University of Buffalo, State University of New York, which is focused on the transportation needs of people with disabilities.

The project was supported in part by CMU's Traffic21 initiative.  

In addition to Steinfeld, the Tiramisu development team is led by Anthony Tomasic, senior systems scientist in the Institute for Software Research , and John Zimmerman, associate professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the School of Design.

"Tiramisu is an exciting tool that will provide new types of useful information for Port Authority riders," said Port Authority CEO Steve Bland.

"Collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University on research aimed at improving public transportation has been an exciting and fruitful experience, which we hope continues for many more years."

Related Links: ISR | HCII | School of Design | Traffic21 | Heinz College

Homepage Story Archives