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iPhone App for Bay Area Public Transit

A handy iPhone application created by a University of Southern California engineering student to help commuters in the San Francisco Bay Area get around on public transportation. The navigation tool, called iBART, is an iPhone and iPod Touch application for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. The program was created by David Hodge, who is majoring in computer science and business, and a friend, Ian Leighton, who is a mechanical engineering major at the University of California, Berkeley.

iBART leverages the capabilities of the iPhone to make San Francisco's public transportation system easier and more convenient to use, he said. The application works with all models of iPhone. Hodge, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, got the idea to start the project after winning a Google scholarship let him attend the live announcement of Apple's new iPhone 3G in June. He then attended a weeklong worldwide developers conference, hosted by Apple, where he picked up a lot of the iPhone knowledge he needed to make iBART.

"We thought this was a perfect application for iPhone users, and BART data is readily available in an open data format," Hodge said. "The iPhone application, which is compatible with all models of the iPhone, was designed to make BART easier to use and, hopefully, encourage more people to ride BART."

He went to work on the software and algorithms, partnering with Leighton to design the user interface, or look-and-feel of the program. Hodge had to connect his algorithms with BART's transportation data to create the program, but he said it wouldn't be much trouble to tailor the program to other public transit systems.

iBART has a number of ways to make getting around easier, he explained. The most important feature is the "Trip Planner."

"iBART's 'Trip Planner' allows users to find the closest BART station using GPS, plot a trip to another station, and easily follow step by step directions to a destination," he said. "Additionally, iBART has real-time service advisories, a full system map and train arrival information."

The application is free and, so far, has been "incredibly well-received," Hodge added. The app has already earned a 4.5-star user rating (out of 5 stars) and has received between 40,000 to 45,000 hits since going live on August 22.

"We kept it free in order to get it on to as many phones as possible," said Hodge, who has received many requests to make iBART equivalents in areas like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

"I'm not ready to spill the beans yet, but let's just say that expansion is quite possible, I could do that fairly easily," he added. u"We just want to make sure we do it right."

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