Logo: University of Southern California

CS Student Designs Popular iBART Trip Planner

Handy New iPhone Application a top pick in Northern California

October 27, 2008 — A handy new iPhone application created by a USC engineering student to help Bay Area commuters get around on BART — Northern California’s public transit system — has become one of the hottest new picks in the App Store for NorCal iPhone users.     

The new 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, a sophomore in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, who is majoring in computer science and business, and a friend, Ian Leighton, who is a mechanical engineering major at UC Berkeley.
Hodge 2
David Hodge
iBART leverages the unique capabilities of the iPhone to make San Francisco’s public transportation system easier and more convenient to use, he said. The new application works with all models of iPhone.

Hodge, who grew up in Marin County, got the idea to start the project after winning an Apple scholarship to attend the live announcement of the new iPhone 3G in June and a weeklong Worldwide Developers Conference, 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.”
Trip Planner screen

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.   “We just want to make sure we do it right.”

Perhaps the favorite part of the whole experience for Hodge has been reading all of the feedback from users. He picked out a few of his favorite comments:  
Trip details screen

1. "VERY NICE!! Beautifully well done! Very useful, fast and comprehensive. I just got back from San Fran and wish I had this app when I was there. I live in Chicago and wish you could do an app for the Chicago Transit.... CTA and Metra."

2. "Train Operator Gives Thumbs Up!:  As a BART employee, I think this app is great and very easy to use for you BART riders. I just hope people get this app and use it all the time instead of asking me questions that can easily be answered by getting this great app."

3. "Very Helpful: Being a frequent BART rider, this app has been a lifesaver! Quick, easy to use interface means you'll never be late to your destination again! Awesome app!!!"