Ideas & Insights
Seattle Student Develops New Live Bus Tracker

University of Washington student Kona Farry develops web app that tracks city transit. The web app helps riders track the whereabouts of city buses, ferries, streetcars and even the light-rail trains around Seattle in real time. If you are like most people who regularly take a bus, you have probably more than once waited at a bus stop for a bus that was really late. Just imagine if you had an app that could have let your track where this bus was so you could have done something more useful with your time.

One person, in particular, imagined such an app. His name is Kona Farry and he is a junior at the University of Washington. But Farry more than just imagined this app. He actually built it.

Last month, Ferry launched a web app that lets commuters not only track buses in the Seattle area but also light-rail trains, streetcars and even ferries. What's more, he plans to develop the app further, to provide even more real-time information to commuters, such as traffic conditions.

The app is called the Puget Sound Transit Operations Tracker. Also known as P-Track, the app utilizes both GPS data and other information Seattle transit agencies make public over the Internet. The app further updates itself every half-minute to keep the information up-to-date.

Farry, who is 21 years old and is studying Community, Environment and Planning at the university, says that he created the system so he and others could see the entire Seattle transit system at once. The app includes a ton of information about public transit vehicles, such as:

Their makes and models Their identification numbers Their weights The app is not only completely free to use but Farry has not monetized it at all. Though users can make either a one-time donation or purchase a monthly subscription. Farry says that he plans on using this money not only to pay server costs but also to continue developing the service.

At the moment, there is one thing P-Track cannot tell you, and that is exactly when your transportation will arrive. But, in addition to showing you exactly where the vehicle is, it can also let you know whether it is on time or late. Farry uses the Metro's very liberal definition of what constitutes "on time." If a vehicle is no more 5 minutes late (or up to 2 minutes early), it is considered on time.

What makes this story even more interesting is that Farry is not a programmer. He says that he had very limited programming experience before beginning this project in December. Still, he completed it in less than 4 months, with a little help from his roommate, who happens to be a Computer Science major. He also got some help from people on various Internet forums as well as from Google. But mostly he did it by himself, learning as he went on.

Farry said that he became a "transit geek" soon after moving to Seattle in 2016 from Marysville. Being exposed to mass transit for the first time made him think of ways that he could improve it.

This summer, Farry plans to port his web app to a native iOS app for users of iPhones and iPads. Though users of Android devices will still have to make do with the web app, as Farry currently does not have any plans to build a native Android app.

If you would like to have your own app developed, lets pick a time and schedule a visit to the Seattle Software Developers office. We are located on Main Street in Old Bellevue. Stop by, have coffee, and lets discuss your idea. We love meeting new people.

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