Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Magic Bus

30. August 2006 • Bruce Fields
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From the UM Parking and Transportation Services: “Magic Bus information is not a static schedule listing — It is actual arrival information, updated at regular intervals. Because traffic variations, breakdowns and day-to-day problems faced by any transit provider can interrupt service, Magic Bus was designed to keep you on schedule even if your bus is not.”

See the Magic Bus Website.



  1. Hm. The “line view” isn’t working for me this morning, though the “stop view” and “route view” are.

    Has anyone tested to see how accurate this is? It looks nifty, at least.


       —Bruce Fields    Aug. 30 '06 - 02:56PM    #
  2. I feel like I’ve seen various precursor applications to this (as engin. student projects and so forth) for several years. This one seems to be somewhat more officially supported.

    I believe all of the AATA buses are GPS equipped – shouldn’t be too much work to include them, if UM’s got a working system. Right?


       —Murph    Aug. 30 '06 - 04:06PM    #
  3. ” ... Magic Bus was designed to keep you on schedule even if your bus is not.”

    I don’t quite understand that part. Seems like it just lets you know in advance that you’re going to be late … unless you take some alternate means instead of the bus.

    To me, the part worth hyping is that you never have to wait on the bus. I used to take a bus home from work. It was always frustrating to stop work to go home, then wait for however long on the bus, knowing that I could have finished that last little bit of work in the time I spent waiting. With this in place, I imagine having a window open onscreen, and when the oncreen bus icon (gosh, they are k-yute) arrived at a specific spot before the stop, I could then wrap things up and head out to the stop, knowing the bus would definitely be there within a minute or two, or even sooner.

    Perhaps the ‘keeping you on schedule’ is related to removing a common objection people have to riding the bus in the first place: you never REALLY know when it’s going to show up even if it’s scheduled; I just can’t deal with the uncertainty if I have an appointment or something. So if I schedule a appointment with someone at 4:00 based on the assumption that the bus will get to my stop at 3:30 and I can see from the online system that it’s going to be closer to 3:45, then I can call my appointment and tell them not just that I’m going to be late, but by how much. Without such an information system, maybe I wouldn’t be willing to schedule an appointment based on a bus arriving on time and I’d just plan to drive.


       —HD    Aug. 30 '06 - 04:31PM    #
  4. Yeah, I agree with Murph, I have seen several iterations of this in the last year, but this is the first official one I’ve seen. I think it might have come out of the same class as LiveUgli. There are a lot of these fun little projects being implemented around campus.


       —Juliew    Aug. 30 '06 - 05:41PM    #
  5. Now if only we had a little dashboard widget for this…


       —MattH    Aug. 30 '06 - 11:40PM    #
  6. I would totally love to have this for the AATA buses because you just never know when they will be late or on time or whatever.

    What would be even cooler would be what they have on the Metro, which is a little digital readout at all stops that tells you when the next subway is coming.

    But even just being able to check my PC before I leave home so I can actually finish my tea without scalding my esphogus when I don’t have to, would be nice. I hate racing out to catch a bus that doesn’t show up for 10 minutes after it’s supposed to.

    And I don’t even mind if they are late. The ability to know that just gives such a better sense of control.

    They could even have a nice readout at the transit center and other locations so you can track the bus and see where it is.

    Wow, I am way to excited about all of this. Magic indeed.


       —Nancy Shore    Aug. 31 '06 - 12:55AM    #
  7. Maybe this is just a fluke, but the times posted on the stop view for CC Little haven’t changed through constant refreshing over the last 20 minutes. The worst thing that could happen here is to launch Magicbus at the beginning of a new school year, getting a bunch of people excited about it, and then kill the service’s reputation by providing bad data.

    The best thing that could happen with Magicbus would be if somebody would snag that xml feed to make a faster loading interface. I don’t need the gmap, just stop name and arrival time.

    The AIM option is nice, if you use AIM. Checking from my desktop is somewhat convenient, but checking from my mobile phone is the service I want.


       —Scott TenBrink    Aug. 31 '06 - 02:07AM    #
  8. Re: dashboard widgets. Consider using the dash clipping widget; I’ve had pretty good luck with it today (see screenshot of what I set up). It looks a little weird, but it’ll work until somebody does it the hard/right way.


       —Brian    Aug. 31 '06 - 04:26AM    #
  9. Scott TenBrink wrote: “Maybe this is just a fluke, but the times posted on the stop view for CC Little haven’t changed through constant refreshing over the last 20 minutes.”

    I think maybe some work was being done on it yesterday late afternoon early evening. The bus icons disappeared; the line view appeared, then disappeared.

    This morning, though, it looks like the whole thing is working fine. It’d still be nice to get an anecdotal confirmation that the on-screen depiction matches the real world.


       —HD    Aug. 31 '06 - 04:55PM    #
  10. Okay, right now there’s a ‘runaway’ bus sort of floating across the Huron, nowhere close to any road …


       —HD    Sep. 1 '06 - 12:57AM    #