It's a question heard at countless bus stops: "Have you seen the number 48 go by?" Cold, impatient bus riders stamp their feet, check their watches and wonder if that bus is ever going to come. But in Seattle, a cell phone and the ingenuity of two UW students have come to the rescue. Brian Ferris, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering, spent too many many rainy nights waiting for the bus before deciding to take action. "I'm an avid bus rider," said Ferris. "If you ride the bus enough, you spend a lot of time waiting, because even on the best of days buses can still run late."
Over the past year Ferris and Kari Watkins, a UW doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering, have created a tool, OneBusAway, that allows King County bus riders to use a cell phone, iPhone or computer to keep tabs on their bus. OneBusAway has processed 20,000 automated phone calls since June, and the Web site gets an average of 1,000 hits a day. People have found out about the tool on blogs, from stickers posted at a few campus bus stops, from a mention in Seattle magazine and by word-of-mouth. To use OneBusAway, just dial 206-456-0609 from any phone.