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VT Bus Tracker: Not just a bus tracking app

October 2, 2010

BT (Bus Tracker) for BT (Blacksburg Transit)

Thanks to Bus Tracker, no more need to stand in bad weather. Bus Tracker is an application of the same-named project led by Dr. Eli Tilevich, assistant professor at Virginia Tech, and was recently released in the beginning of VT’s fall semester. Bus Tracker is based on GPS tracking system, and gives VT affiliates in town and town natives the ability to get instant feedback on the location of any Blacksburg Transit bus, serving as the first of its kind in Blacksburg. This service is completely mobile-oriented, for it now just supports mobile phones; however, any kind of mobile phones are supported, not just smart-phones — text message is an option of this service. On the smart phone side, there are apps and a mobile web app for iPhone, Android phone, and Blackberry. Conventional web service is yet to be developed.

The Project

The project evolved from a class project assigned by Dr. Tilevich to a senior-level computer science class at VT. The students Travis Webb, Michael Dillon, and Alexander Obenauer have put continuing effort on the project long after the end of the class. VT Bus Tracker was funded by the Virginia Tech SGA, and has received material support from the Blacksburg Transit, the Town of Blacksburg, Google Inc. (by providing app hosting via Google App Engine), the Virginia Tech Computer Science Department.

Bus Tracker got about 8,000 hits to the feed on the first day of class at Blacksburg, and the next day about 21,000. One month later, the number averages about 40,000 hits per day. They are now planning improvement to back-end system and more features such as alert/notification.


The team is ambitious. They have built “a completely free, open, and standardized API as the back-end of the system,” and “are opening up the platform for further development.” What is more interesting, they are pushing this project towards an educational platform. They are collaborating with the CS department to integrate this project into the curriculum and use it as a tool to get students immediately engaging with real-world data and use cases, and drives home abstract principles, such as OOP. They are actually planning an experimental way of teaching the introductory-level courses and the data structures & algorithms courses. Follow their website for their latest move.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. susie permalink
    October 2, 2010 5:50 am

    This project can efficiently improve the public bus transit system. It has big potential market value. For example, the take-up rate of bus in Boston is very low, especially in winter, because people do not want to wait twenty minutes, sometime nearly an hour for a bus in the big snow and wind. If people can get accurate information for bus arrival, they are willing to take bus. Bus companies are willing to pay for the service because they can have more passengers. People also are willing to pay for it because taking a bus becomes cheap and convenient.

  2. October 2, 2010 7:59 pm

    hi!This was a really terrific topic!
    I come from itlay, I was luck to discover your blog in bing
    Also I learn a lot in your Topics really thanks very much i will come daily

  3. October 2, 2010 9:02 pm

    I don’t get what you’re trying to accomplish, I am entertained nonetheless ;).

  4. susie permalink
    October 2, 2010 10:22 pm

    I am a bus taker in Boston. If the techniques of Bus Tracker can be applied to other bus transit systems, such as MBTA of Boston, it will benefit many people.

  5. October 7, 2010 10:42 pm

    good. you gave me an idea, thank you.

  6. October 8, 2010 2:38 am

    well…. here I was looking for things to write about. good work (said half sarcastically with a layer of respect)!

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